Having gone through several titles internationally, from Colonia Dignidad to Colonia and reaching Edinburgh Film Festival as The Colony, Oscar-winner Florian Gallenberger's latest picture reunites him with actor Daniel Brühl with Emma Watson now in the mix too. Here's my review.


Based on a true story, set in 1973, the film follows a young couple, Lena (Emma Watson) and Daniel (Daniel Brühl), that get entangled in the Chilean military coup. When the latter is abducted, for his involvment in the protesting against General Augusto Pinochet, by Pinochet's secret police force DINA, taken to a faclity to be tortured, Lena heads out to try and save him. After speaking to a few people, she discovers that Daniel is being held captive in a sealed-off facility, south of the country: Colonia Dignidad. The organisation, led by the preacher Paul Shafer (Michael Nvqvist), is obsessed with Christianity and the Lord's word. Ironically though, it also safehouses lots of illegal activity and acted as DINA's main torture centre. Enrolling in The Colony to try and find and rescue Daniel, Lena soon finds out that this is a cult from which no one has ever escaped from before, with things quickly going awry for both her and Daniel as they fight for their freedom back.
Given the talent aboard this project, both in-front of and behind the camera, and the harrowing yet compelling richness of the source material and the history behind Colonia Dignidad, The Colony had the potential to be a really great, emotionally gripping drama. However, it's anything but that. Instead, this picture misses the mark and falls flat; it's a disappointing waste of such potential. The narrative itself here is fairly weak - so convoluted and contrived. For a true story so grounded and harrowing and dramatic, this film feels all too contrived and superficial for us to really believe what's going on; the screenplay, by director Gallenberger and newcomer Torsten Wenzel, is weak and mawkishly written. It's also no help that the characters are bland too and all so poorly developed. It's hard to emotionally invest into this film and the characters when they're all so one-dimensional - this is further to the film's detriment seeing as this is a film driven solely by its characters and the audience's investment in the characters and in the relationships

Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl are both incredibly talented and they give solid performances in their respective roles but it doesn't do much when they're given so little to work with and such poorly developed characters to embody. They have good chemistry but it's hard to buy into their relationship and really care for just what they're going through because of how poorly these events have been handled here - it's offensive and disgraceful to those affected by Colonia. This film had the potential to be so engrossing and emotionally nuanced but it just feels contrived and dull, to the point of just being painstakingly tedious for the most part. The direction and editing is all over the place, with the film cutting from one thing to another and the finale feels way too rushed and underwhelming as a result. Quite simply, The Colony is just messy.
It's not all bad though. As I've said, the performances are certainly pretty solid and watchable. Watson, Brühl and Nyqvist are all fine in this. There are also a couple of scenes throughout which are actually gripping to watch but they don't come all that often and the pacing/tone is just too uneven - one second, the premise is going nowhere and is unbearaby boring whereas the next, things suddenly pick up for an exciting action sequence only to die down again for another half hour or so again. The Colony is Florian Gallenberger's directorial debut and there's certainly promise and potential here but there is also lots of room from improvement too because, sadly, this film doesn't live up to what it could be. Instead, it's a film that is too sloppily handled and messy, ending up pretty disappointing and tedious and lacklustre as a result.

Despite two great leads and performances in Watson and Brühl and some promising directing from Gallenberger, The Colony is a convoluted, bland drama that feels all too contrived, messy and tedious to live up to its seemingly high potential. A disappointing misfire.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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