Review: Colonia

5 10
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PLOT: After her boyfriend disappears during the 1973 Chilean military coup, a young woman (Emma Watson) infiltrates the infamous Colonia Dignidad cult, run by a psychotic preacher, Paul Schafer (Michael Nyqvist).

REVIEW: COLONIA should have been a great movie. The Chilean coup has inspired some pretty terrific work, with the highlight being the Costa Gravas classic MISSING,. Considering that the Colonia Dignidad cult not only existed, but also held prisoners for Pinochet and helped them cover up the murders of political prisoners in addition to their own myriad of human rights abuses, this should have been compelling stuff. Despite a good cast and an intriguing start, COLONIA winds-up being too generic a chase thriller to ever really become the tense, politically minded exposé it might have been.

colonia emma watson michael nyqvist

It’s a shame that director Florian Gallenberger spends so much time telling a conventional romantic story, as too many of the twists and turns feel warmed-over and familiar. Emma Watson tries hard as the dew-eyed young stewardess trying to rescue her German activist boyfriend (Daniel Bruhl) who she believes is being held by the cult. A talented actress, this could have been a gritty part but maybe in an attempt to be commercial Gallenberger reunites the lovers too early on, with us learning in too short an amount of time that Bruhl’s survived and is now trying to expose the cult by pretending to be brain-damaged while he compiles evidence.

colonia emma watson daniel bruhl

Once the two are reunited it becomes clear that this going down the generic thriller route, with too little time devoted to Nyqvist’s Schafer, a real guy who - it’s been alleged - even harbored the infamous Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. None of that figures too much into the plot here, with it frequently going in to chase mode even, leading to a tacked-on ending that defies believability and is in stark contrast to the real horror stories that have emerged from Pinochet’s rule.

Still, COLONIA is not a total loss. Since the end of the Harry Potter series, Watson has worked hard to branch out into different kinds of roles, and while she’s too idealized as the supportive girlfriend willing to risk life and limb to save her lover, she’s easy to relate to and like. The same goes for Bruhl, who’s been on-the-rise for years and is always worth watching. While he chews the scenery a bit when his character pretends to be mentally incapacitated, you can tell he’s really into the role and is doing his best with the material. Nyqvist is also quite chilling as Schafer, although I wonder if the real guy was as obviously psychotic as he is here, as he lacks the charisma you’d usually associate with someone that has such a firm grasp over so many people. Still, his scenes are among the best in the film, and had the movie focused more on Shafer and his dirty dealings it might have been a tougher but better film.

In the end, COLONIA is frustratingly mediocre for something with such a compelling premise and cast. There’s probably an amazing film to be made on the Colonia cult but despite some good acting, this is too clumsy and a generic a thriller to really work.

Source: JoBlo.com



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