Settlers – A solid but flawed slice of science fiction

29th July 2021

Settlers is available to rent or buy now.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

For decades, cinema has attempted to reflect the possible colonisation of our nearest planetary neighbour Mars, with mixed success. And while some movies have opted to explore the isolation of the red planet, others have focused on our realisation that while you can take the human away from Earth, you can’t change their behaviour. Wyatt Rockefeller combines both these themes in a confident and beautiful movie rooted in isolation, fear and human fragility in his debut feature. The desolate Martian landscape, stunningly recreated in South Africa’s Namaqualand desert. However, despite solid performances throughout, and visual flair, Settlers struggles to identify its core messages. The tension of the opening half ultimately, falling flat as we reach our conclusion.

Ilsa (Sofia Boutella), Reza (Jonny Lee Miller), and their nine-year-old daughter Remmy (Brooklynn Prince) inhabit an isolated small farm surrounded by mountains. Their strange, desolate facsimile of home, stark, dusty yet comforting as they stare into the night sky and recall stories of Earth. But, this is no harmonious farm free from aggression and fear. No, this is a fortress fought over and won through violence. And as Remmy cares for the crops and animals, mysterious outsiders watch and wait. Their mission, to reclaim a farm that offers survival and hope.

Although striking and beautiful in the hands of cinematographer Willie Nel, with a cracking score composed by Nitin Sawhney, Settlers biggest flaw is its screenplay. The story never quite rises to meet the ideas surrounding it. But, despite that, Settler’s is a solid slice of science fiction that reminds us all that no matter where humans go, darkness, hope, and a fight for survival at any cost will follow.

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