“For those of us who prefer entertaining or at least enlightening science fiction films, than avoid The Divide like the radioactive cloud that hangs over the doomed characters in this darkly depressing film.”
Science Fiction, Post-apocalyptic, Drama
Staring - Lauren German/Eva, , Milo Ventimiglia/Josh, Courtney B. Vance/Devlin, Ashton Holmes/Adrien, Rosanna Arquette/Marilyn, Iván González/Sam, Michael Eklund/Bobby and Abbey Thickson/Wendi
Director - Xavier Gens
Writer(s) - Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean
Rated R - Disturbing strong violence, sexuality, and pervasive language
1 hr., 52 min.
I watch every genre film that comes out in any given year, with very few exceptions. I probably skip horror films more than any of my three favorite genres, because of my dislike for these sub-genres: slasher, torture-porn and found-footage. Fantasy films seldom contain elements that I find distasteful, so I seldom miss any of these films, except for the extremely cheap ones or films aimed at young children. Science fiction is my favorite type of film, so a film has to contain elements that I find very distasteful or just plain dull for me to pass over. Even so, I occasionally go out of my comfort zone and watch a science fiction film that I am fairly certain I will find difficult to watch. Sometimes I am rewarded with a film that surprises me (like Phase 7 did last year), but more often than not, I am sorry that I spent the time and effort to watch a film I could not appreciate even on a purely intellectual level (The Road – 2009 –immediately springs to mind). I have put off watching The Divide for some time, but I finally bolstered my courage and watched this post-apocalyptic drama.
The film opens with Eva and her boyfriend Sam looking out their apartment window and seeing missiles streaking across the New York skyline. When the first explosion hits, they immediately rush out of the apartment and down the emergency stairwell. Most of the residents of the building are already running down the stairs and there is much pushing and shoving as people begin to panic. They finally get to the ground floor and the exit, when another closer explosion rocks the building and forces them back into the apartment building. Desperate for shelter, they see an open door leading to the basement of the building, but a man is trying to close it. Eva, Sam and a few others push against the door and manage to force their way in.
Once inside the basement, Mickey, who is the building superintendent, tells the small group that he is in charge until it is safe to leave. Marilyn’s young daughter Wendi begins to complain and keeps repeating her need to go home. Mickey informs her and everyone that the radiation dust from the fallout of the nuclear explosion will kill everyone, so no one can leave until he says so. The rest of the group is made up of a yuppie gay man Josh, his younger artist brother Adrien, Josh’s friend Bobby and an African-American man Devlin, who no one seems to know. As the days pass into weeks, the group grows increasingly aware that Mickey is hiding something and they suspect that is the reason he will not allow them to enter his private room.
A loud banging is heard outside the steel door that separates them from the contaminated air and Mickey grabs an axe to hold off potential intruders. The invaders use a blow torch to cut the locked door and enter. What happens next is a complete right-turn in the film’s plot and when this portion of the film concludes, The Divide goes right back to where its plot was headed originally.
The Divide is the type of Post-apocalyptic story that shows humanity at its worst. As the film wears on and on, the characters in the film all begin to gradually decline both mentally and physically. One reason for the physical deterioration, which is only implied in the film, is that because the door was breached, they are all gradually dying of radiation contamination. Once this becomes obvious, not only do the characters begin to act more and more selfish and sadistic, but as a viewer I lost interest in their survival because I knew they were not going to do so. The only thing that could have made The Divide a compelling drama for me was seeing these characters struggle for survival. Once this hope was taken away, there was little to keep me interested; other than the perverse voyeuristic pleasure in watching these characters deteriorate to the point of near savagery. I do not find these type of scenes interesting, so the film lost me before it was even halfway over.
One thing that stood out to me – and not in a good way – was the soundtrack. There are many sequences in the film where the camera pans slowly across all the characters in various stages of depression to show passage of time and every single time this long repetitive piano music plays incessantly over these shots. It was maddening to the point where I finally had to fast forward through these merciless montages!
The only highlight of the film is Michael Biehn as Mickey, who starts out being an unlikeable totalitarian bastard, but grows into a stronger and more compassionate character, whose hidden motives are cleverly and expertly revealed by Biehn’s subtle acting. The rest of the cast are written so poorly that you have to feel sorry for the actors and actresses playing the roles; particularly Rosanna Arquette who’s character suffers the worst indignities in the film.
I honestly don’t understand how a film like The Divide gets made. The three million dollar budget was spent I’m assuming on the mostly talented cast. How anyone reading the screenplay would consider this worth investing in is beyond me, as even if the story made sense – which because of the previously mentioned “right turn” in the plot – it doesn’t, it portrays such a negative view on humanity that only someone who has a similar pessimistic viewpoint would find this story worth filming. If you are of a similar mental bent, than by all means “enjoy” The Divide. For those of us who prefer entertaining or at least enlightening science fiction films, than avoid The Divide like the radioactive cloud that hangs over the doomed characters in this darkly depressing film.
TECHNICAL: Acting – 8 Directing – 7 Cinematography – 7 Script – 5 Special Effects – 7
VISCERAL: Visual – 7 Auditory – 5 Intellectual – 6 Emotional – 6 Involvement – 5
TOTAL - 63