'Settlers' Movie Review: The Wild West on Mars

 Settlers Sofia Boutella Brooklyn Prince

Not much happens in SETTLERS by newcomer Wyatt Rockefeller, but the director manages to keep the tension going for 104 minutes in this home invasion thriller set on Mars.

SETTLERS stars Sofia Boutella (ATOMIC BLONDE), Brooklynn Prince (THE FLORIDA PROJECT), Jonny Lee Miller (TRAINSPOTTING), and Ismael Cruz Cordova (THE UNDOING, Ray Donovan). The setting is the Martian frontier on a homestead run by Ilsa, her husband Reza, and their nine-year-old daughter Remmy (Prince). They are refugees from Earth living in an isolated homestead. They are a happy unit until scavengers arrive threatening to evict them from their home.

SETTLERS doesn’t open with an explanation as to why this family is living in a remote area of Mars or how they are able to breathe without suits. The viewer just has to assume that Earthlings finally colonized the Red Planet. Little by little, the characters begin revealing details of the state of things between Mars and Earth, and about the people living there. SETTLERS has a lot of unknowns, but that’s what keeps the low-key movie interesting.

Tensions are high even when there's no action because of the uncertainty of the situation between the characters. Don't expect big action pieces because the story takes place on Mars. It's a sci-fi setting but SETTLERS is more about human behavior rather than exploring the frontier.  

Many of the lingering questions are never answered like what happened to all the other Mars settlers or why the couple fled Earth. The characters give a broad explanation such as a war on Earth, and that Earthlings are not welcomed on Mars but the story doesn’t reveal much more.

SETTLERS is beautifully shot using an orange hue to match the Martian landscape but it also gives it a classic western feel. For a low-budget movie, the set pieces are elaborate with designs that resemble a spaceship.

There are no cowboys in SETTLERS but it’s easy to see what the writer/director was going for. Like in the wild west, there’s barren landscape and outlaws at your door wanting to take what you have. It’s every man or woman for themselves. Discovering a new frontier doesn’t change human behavior and their propensity for violence.

Settlers Ismael Cruz Cordova

The cast turn in solid performances but Cordova is the stand-out star with a complicated character who’s violent yet sympathetic at times as the intruder.

SETTLERS finale doesn’t wrap up all loose ends which is frustrating but it does drive home the point of the movie.

It's a promising start as a film debut for Rockefeller.  The London-born filmmaker developed this project in association with the NYU Production Lab where he studied and earned a dual MBA-MFA in film. Expect to see more from this new visionary. 

SETTLERS is now playing in select theaters and everywhere you rent movies.

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