Written and directed by Wyatt Rockefeller, Settlers is a mellow scifi film that is set on Mars, but from the look and what is happening, could easily be a post-apocalyptic story set on Earth. This gives the film a more eerie realism than most films set on Mars. There is something about seeing the vast land with seemingly nothing to sustain life being used by a family trying to survive as best they can. The film shows them living and having some good moments before introducing other humans to threaten their situation. This leads to a mellow set-up where the actors get to be their characters before the story starts fully unfolding. There is something here for viewers to get attached to, these are three people who feel almost normal (with a side of futuristic qualities of course). The future shown here, besides the location, is not that far from what one could easily imagine life on Earth becoming which makes the film more impactful and realistic in its scifi.
What really sells the story here are the performances. Most will recognize Jonny Lee Miller right away and it will help root the film into the familiar. As his wife and someone who gets much more screentime is Sofia Boutella who gives an emotionally grounding performance something a bit different from her more action centric previous roles as in Hotel Artemis and Star Trek: Beyond (and Atomic Blonde and The Mummy remake and…). She shows here a range that is great to see and something that brings the film into the emotional realm that is needs to be for the viewer to be connected to these people by the time the bad guys show up. Playing the lead bad guy is Ismael Cruz Cordova who shows both bad and good qualities, making him more of a survivor at all costs than a straight up bad guy. His performance shows talent and restraint in how he does certain things. Playing the child at the center of it all are Brooklynn Prince (as the young version) Nell Tiger Free (as the more adult version). These two create a character together who has a logical evolution not just in story, but also in emotional maturity. These performances anchor the film, making the character of Remmy a nicely central one.
One thing that can be said loudly and often about Settlers is that it looks stunning. There is a look for this film that is just so good and inspiring visually. The work by director of photography Willie Nel is really something to come to the film for if the story doesn’t originally appeal. The film has a style and look that is just right and looks so good. A lot of the images are like post cards of Mars, desolated and beautiful, filled with a sort of loneliness and sadness mixed with hope.
Settlers is a scifi film that comes off more mellow than most and that won’t be for everyone. That being said, it’s a strong entry in a low key scifi which looks more and more plausible. If it were not set on Mars, it would be more of a post –apo film with a touch of scifi. It’s realistic (within the limitations of the genre) and it is based on humans who do and react in natural ways. There is a lot of emotions in this one and that is why it works so well.