Sunday, July 15, 2012


“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


  1. Fritz, that sounds like a fascinating film. "Humanity at its worst." Hard to imagine.

  2. Maurice,

    Sarcasm doesn’t always translate well in text, but I’m assuming by stating that you think The Divide “sounds like a fascinating film” that you don’t agree with my assessment of the film. If realism in a film means that everything and everyone in a film has to be gloomy, depressing and pessimistic, than I guess I don’t like “realistic” films. I don’t need all my science fiction films to be unnaturally cheerful, uplifting and optimistic, but if a film is going to show a harsh reality that challenges the human spirit, than I prefer to have at least a few of the characters in the film accept the challenge and not just lay down and die; or worst, make the situation even worse by torturing or killing the other characters. This is what happens in The Divide and I don’t find these human degradations either entertaining or interesting. Perhaps someone who thinks that these types of films are a good warning or representation of the current state of human affaires would like this film, but I just find them too damned depressing.

    If you do watch The Divide and find some merit in it, I’d be happy to read your reasoning behind that opinion. I’ll most likely still disagree with it, but it may open my mind and help me look at this type of film in a different way.

    Thanks for the comments, Maurice!

  3. Josh wasn't a 'yuppie gay man' I seem to recall stuff with Marilyn and (nearly) Eva that would say he was straight. And definitely not a yuppie, he was kind of a scumbag.
    Not being nitpicky here btw just seems a pretty big mistake is all.

  4. Hi, J.J!

    I'm a little hesitant to contradict your corrections of my assessment of Joss's character, because it has been long enough since I watched The Divide that I don't remember the specific traits of any of the characters in the film. To keep my reviews short, I tend to paint the characters personalities with very quick strokes; particularly a film I disliked as much as this one. If you say Joss was a straight "scumbag", I'll take your word for it. However, that same adjective could be used to describe most of the characters in The Divide by the end of the movie.

    I'm glad you took the time and effort to comment on my review of The Divide, J.J., but it may be more interesting to give me your opinion of the film itself. If you disagreed with my negative assessment of The Divide, then tell me why. I don't mind constructive criticism, but I much prefer an exchange of ideas and opinions.

  5. Hi Fritz,

    Well I can assure you he was.
    Like I said I wasn't being nitpicky and I am sorry if I came off as a douchebag in my comment. I'm kind of abrupt in can read wrong.

    Definitely agree that everyone was a scumbag by the end (don't know whether to excuse Josh and Bobby from extra hate as they were suffering more radiation poisoning than the others?)
    I did like this movie rather a lot though,

    Realistic? Not at all.....
    But that's never hindered my enjoyment of a movie before :)

    Other than a very bleak worldview what did you dislike so much?
    I know many people felt short changed by the lack of explanation with the 'white suit guys' and precisely what the reason was for the 'war' and furthermore, if it was the world or just New York under attack.

    I'll check back quicker this time, lol

  6. Welcome back, J. J.!

    I didn’t take offence at your correction of my assessment of Joss’s character and since you are obviously much more of a fan of the film, I’m more than willing to assume your understanding of the characters in The Divide are better than mine. The only way I would even attempt to disagree with you on this point would be for me to watch the film again and that is something I have no desire to do.

    I think you are being overly generous to Joss and Bobby by crediting their increase exposure to radiation for their devolving antisocial behavior. All the characters showed signs of radiation poisoning by the films end and yet some of them still demonstrated a modicum of civilized behavior. The most compassionate character – and the POV character throughout the film – was Eva and she ultimately was the only one who continually attempted to maintain a positive attitude.

    It was not a lack of realism that kept me from enjoying The Divide. Nor was it a lack of an explanation of who the men in the white suits were. Nor was it the lack of a larger explanation of what caused the nuclear attack on New York or whether the scale of the attack was nation or worldwide. It most definitely was the, as you put it “the bleak world view”, that kept me from enjoying or even finding an appreciative understanding of the film. Watching characters devolve into depraved, immoral and selfish people is not my idea of fun or entertainment. If the film had given me the impression of having a greater meaning or some sort of overall moral message, I might have at least come away from watching it with a begrudging admiration for it; but it did not do this and only seemed to relish wallowing in the character’s misery, self-pity and depression. Once again, this is not my idea of fun.

    What ultimately made me dislike the film most of all was the ending. Eva finally escapes the basement into the devastation of a demolished New York City. It is clear from her reaction to the environment and where the director chose to end the film that Eva will not survive for long and it compounds the feeling of hopelessness that the film had already beaten into the viewers for most of The Divide’s running time. I don’t require a film to have a positive or upbeat ending to enjoy it (The Cabin in the Woods was one of my favorite films of 2012 and everyone dies in that one), but when a film’s major point seems to be to show just how worthless humans are and how capable they are of being inhumane to one another, I for one would rather not watch it.

    Thanks for the feedback and interesting discourse, J. J.!