The Colony [Colonia]

"Good"

The Colony [Colonia] Review


Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's difficult to shake. Strikingly well played by an international cast, the film's dark themes get under the skin. German director-cowriter Florian Gallenberger has a skilful eye that draws the audience in, focussing on characters to provide a strong emotional kick. That said, the film feels eerily stuck in the past, never quite finding present-day relevance that would make it even more powerful.

It's 1973 in Chile, as the political unrest grows surrounding Pinochet's brutal coup d'etat. Flight attendant Lena (Emma Watson) has just arrived for a four-day holiday with her journalist boyfriend Daniel (Daniel Bruhl) when street protests spin out of control. Detained by the new government, Daniel is cruelly tortured. Lena sets out to find him, following his trail to Colonia Dignidad, a religious cult out in the countryside where rebel activists are hidden from sight and forced to work. Posing as a true believer, Lena enters the compound and is quickly terrified by the ruthless, charismatic leader Paul (Michael Nyqvist) and his heartless housemaster Gisela (Richenda Carey).

Gallenberger begins building the underlying tension even in the opening scenes, which feature the happy romantic reunion between Lena and Daniel. Angry demonstrations and military action surround them, ramping up the tension. And then as the story shifts to Colonia, the film takes on nightmarish echoes of Nazi Germany, with chanted greetings ("God bless" sounds rather a lot like "Heil Hitler"), torture chambers and claustrophobic bunkers. Through all of this, Watson and Bruhl deliver remarkably grounded performances as real people caught up in unimaginable horrors. Underneath the intensity, both actors are likeable and tenacious, and together they have very strong chemistry. Meanwhile, the always superb Nyqvist (star of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy) brings a genuinely unsettling nastiness to his all-powerful father figure.

Thankfully, Lena also encounters sympathetic people in Colonia, including a fellow inmate (Jeanne Werner) who refuses to give up hope and a nurse (Vicky Krieps) who quietly helps her in her quest. But characters like these are clearly doomed simply because of their humanity. And the even heavier irony is that this cult continually stresses that everything they do is out of love, including imprisonment, torture and abuse. Yes, Gallenberger's clear goal is to echo Hitler-era Germany in Chile's post-coup oppression. But he barely touches on the more powerful connection between right-wing politics and religious fanatics. Still, this is an involving, important depiction of a grim, underreported period in Chile's history.

Rich Cline



Facts and Figures

Genre: Thriller

Budget: $16M

Production compaines: Alcina Pictures, 120dB Films, Item 7, Sierra Pictures (II), Mad Samurai Productions, RLJ Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Florian Gallenberger

Producer: , Nicolas Steil

Starring: as Briggs, as Sam, as Mason, John Tench as Viktor, Atticus Mitchell as Graydon, Dru Viergever as Feral Leader, as Reynolds, as Scientist, Lisa Berry as Nara, Lucius Hoyos as Rowan, Michael Mando as Cooper, Eric Murdoch as Terrified Man, Kimberly-Sue Murray as Janelle, as Leland, Charlotte Sullivan as Kai

Contactmusic


Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.