The release of “Settlers,” written and directed by Wyatt Rockefeller, who has only three directing and writing credits to his name (two of them shorts), couldn’t have been timed better.
I say this since we currently have billionaires going into space with dreams of landing on Mars. In three chapters, Rockefeller does an adequate job telling his story, but he depresses you at the same time. Filmed in Africa, the bleak, desolate landscape that “The Settlers” is set on gives off an air of loneliness and tragedy, not optimism and hopefulness. It’s perfect. Who said life on Mars would be jovial??
This is often a slow-paced sci-fi that has you puzzled just enough to keep you absorbed and watching. By the end, it finally answers some questions but, unfortunately, does leave you wishing it had wrapped up differently. If that’s a good or bad thing depends on the taste of the person watching. Is it worth your time to give “Settlers” a try? I’d say so, but save you viewing for VOD or cable.
The three people on Mars currently are Reza (Miller), his wife Ilsa (Boutella), and their daughter Remmy (Prince). Are others coming? You’re set up for what initially feels like a terrible situation where colonization is entirely impossible. What’s the plan? Some of that answer is explained to the audience when Reza, staring into the skies with his daughter, tells her that Earth isn’t what it once was. In fact, they’re lucky to be on Mars. He tells her it will eventually be just like Earth. If that’s what they’re thinking, they have a long way to go starting with only these three people. They have a greenhouse of sorts. They have what you’d consider a little farm, as well, which gives the story the look of “Little House on the Prairie.” That’s a bit odd to believe, but the first to charge across every large chunk of unknown territory looked this exact same way. Then, the air is somehow breathable, too! Okay. Works for me.
The film becomes a thriller about a quarter of the way in. As we move forward, we find out through a series of events that Reza and Ilsa weren’t the first ones there after all. Their curious child has always felt as if they’re not alone. Her parents assure her they are, but she finally sees proof of her theories when the word “LEAVE” is found painted on their front window. Leave to where exactly? It’s at this point where the entire story changes. Now we’re getting somewhere!
Meet Jerry, played by Ismael Cruz Córdova, who will very much leave an impression on you. He alleges that the climate-controlled facility the family has been inhabiting belonged to his family; that he, like Remmy, was raised there. The movie turns into a heavy drama but still maintains the threatening, ominous feel and search for truth one gets from their sci-fi films.
Soon, it’s ten years later. Prince is replaced with actress Nell Tiger Free who is now the older Remmy. After seeing what people are willing to do to survive, Remmy prepares to hold the fort, as well. Now we wonder how far Jerry’s claim to the territory will go and what else his intentions are.
Forgive the vagueness, but I have to be as not to spoil things. The performances make this film. From young Brooklynn Prince, filled with fear one instant and eagerness the next, to Ismael Cruz Córdova who shows it’s possible to be the brutal bad guy and the tender good guy at once, to Boutella who wasn’t given enough screen time, in my opinion, THEY are why you can’t turn this movie off. Don’t look for extravagance. It’s as low budget as a production can be it’s clear where the money was spent. Ending up with this cast, Rockefeller chose wisely.
“Settlers” opens in Theaters and will be Streaming on VOD July 23rd, 2021.
Directed by: Wyatt Rockefeller
Written by: Wyatt Rockefeller
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brooklynn Prince, Nell Tiger Free and Jonny Lee Miller
Producers: Julie Fabrizio, Joshua Horsfield, Johan Kruger
Rated: Not rated
Runtime: 1h 45m
Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery, Thriller