Directed by: Xavier Gens
This may end up being the most lengthy review I ever post. Yet, I refuse to give any spoilers away. You’ve been warned.
‘The Divide’ is the story of nine apartment tenants who find shelter in the building’s basement seconds before the nuclear holocaust wipes out the city as they knew it.
Mickey, the super of the high-rise, is the first character we meet formally. Portrayed by cult hero Michael Biehn ( ‘Aliens’, ‘The Abyss’, ‘The Terminator’ ), Mickey has created a fall-out shelter that will provide supplies and nutrients to anyone who finds themselves stuck down there for days on end. Mickey embodies the stereotypical patriotic conspiracy theorist, mumbling racial slurs about Middle Easterners but also being supremely equipped to handle the situation that has just fallen upon them. Or so he thinks.
We also meet Sam (Iván González) and Eva (Lauren German), a couple who clearly had a lot on their plate even before Armageddon struck. German is fast becoming a star, and her performance as Eva is truly riveting.
Heroes‘ Milo Ventimiglia is a familiar face as the film opens, playing the hot headed alpha male Josh.
Delvin is aced by Courtney B. Vance, a Harvard graduate and seasoned veteran of film and, in particular, television work. Delvin instantly became the character I put my trust in.
Adrien (Ashton Holmes) is the soft spoken loner of the group, while Bobby (Michael Eklund) is the most emotional right off the bat, crying and trembling as the building crumbles above them.
Rosanna Arquette ( ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘The Whole Nine Yards‘) plays Marilyn, the mother to Wendi (Abbey Thickson).
I immediately fell in love with the fact that every character in this film is real. While Mickey is a gruff shit talker, we all know a guy like him. The usual Hollywood stereotypes have no place in this film. There is genuine depth in all nine people we are introduced to, and that is a huge credit to writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean.
Hope dwindles fast within the group, as small digs are said and paranoia begins to fester within the minds of those imprisoned in the dank confines of Mickey’s safe haven. The human psyche starts to shake awfully quick, a la some of my favorite horror films like The Mist, The Thing and The Birds. One particular scene that was masterfully shot shows Sam starting to lose his cool, jabbering on and on while the rest of the group tries to either ignore him or calm him down. Bobby is riding a stationary bike, pedaling faster and faster as Sam’s voice rises and Mickey’s patience stretches thinner.
All too soon, a rescue team is cutting down the door to the fall-out shelter and while hope is nervously twitching at the corner of our survivors’ lips, it becomes apparent very quickly that salvation has not come.
The following sequence of events allow the film to gnarl into it’s most sudden twist. This team of men in hazmat suits aren’t holding guns and lasers for nothing.
When the dust settles, the group has been pared down to eight and there is a chance for someone from the group to put on a hazmat suit and see exactly what’s going on outside for themselves.
My stomach went to ice as Josh (Ventimiglia) surveys the area directly outside of the basement door. We find the member of the group who was taken by the surviving hazmat strangers. Suddenly, we are in a science fiction terror.
As the film progresses, the relationships within the group are brought to the surface at a fantastic pace. Gens does not heap all of the emotional stress on the viewer right away. In fact, his gradual story telling almost becomes too much as we as an audience is forced to deal with what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing on two totally different levels.
The most striking things I took from this film is that these roles were not for the faint of heart. The actors who portrayed these survivors clearly went to deep, dark depths for this project. I cannot say enough for how incredible the acting was in this film.
The score for this film is fantastic. Haunting and moving, the main arrangement is brought to life by Jean-Pierre Taieb, who has worked with director Gens before on the superb ‘Frontier(s)‘.
Ventimiglia, German and Arquette give performances that are worthy of award consideration. Terrifying, deep, stirring and as brutal as humanly possible.
Eklund steals the show in my opinion though, falling into possibly the most devastating transformation I’ve ever seen on screen.
This is a dark, ugly film- and I mean that in the most respectful way possible. There were times where I cringed at what was being shown and there were instances where I found myself having given in to the story completely, unblinking. This film kept my body cold and heavy all the way through. I do not recommend ‘The Divide’ to everyone- it’s as dark a film as I’ve seen in a long time, and the brutal violence and ugly displays of human nature are hard to watch at times, but that doesn’t make it any less of an excellent film.
Sure, some questions are left unanswered, but that just adds to the emotional investment of this film. We are a member of the group from the very beginning- we know just as much (or as little) as these people do.
The ending is considered anti-climactic by some, but sometimes the most reasonable ending is the most disturbing.
My Grade: 9/10
* One quick note on a future project- a film titled ‘The Farm‘ has Biehn, Eklund, Gonzalez and Vance, as well as ‘The Divide’ actress Jennifer Blanc, starring.
Biehn and Blanc are executive producers of the 2013 project. Danielle Harris is slated to co-star.