The Settlers movie poster
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The Settlers
The Settlers movie poster

The Settlers Movie Review

Racism, colonialism, and simmering hatred collide in the riveting drama-thriller The Settlers (Los colonos), a Chilean western boasting stark visuals, bleak storytelling, and a constant sense of uneasiness.

Chile’s entry for Best International Picture at the Academy Awards, The Settlers is a movie that feels lived in. The lead characters–two white men, played by Mark Stanley and Alfredo Castro, and a mixed-race indigenous man (Camilo Arancibia)--are barren characters, shaped and whittled down to the bone by history, violence, and bloodlust. While Arancibia’s character is cast as the near-silent protagonist, these men are tortured souls, and they lash out accordingly (whether physically or otherwise). When they warily spot smoke rising from a treeline, the first instinct is to not circumvent the threat but go in for the kill, even if that means killing the innocent men, women, and children just chilling for the day.

The Settlers is a sinister film, one that feels like a powder keg teetering over a pile of burning matches. Visually stunning, the atmosphere director Felipe Gálvez Haberle–his feature debut, by the way–builds, the tension he creates, is masterful.

But The Settlers isn’t just a thriller–it’s an indictment of Chile’s history, a raw examination of the horrors of its past and the reckoning that has never come to pass. Its closing scenes, starkly different from the rest of the movie, may not amount to the conclusion you’d expect, but they serve as a brutally sad representation of a forced peace. I know nothing about Chilean history, but it’s clear Haberle has something to say.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

B+
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