The horror of a nuclear holocaust is one of the things that horrifies every one of us. I know, most of us are afraid of the actual explosion, while some are afraid of the nuclear fall out that fallows (photos of the Japanese people stricken with radiation sickness is indeed horrifying) and most of us wonder how we are going to cope if indeed the world falls under a nuclear holocaust. Well, director Xavier Gens’ “The Divide” attempts to take a look at what can happen to a group of survivors if such an attack does happen. His vision is not very pretty, and really, the film is a little hard to sit through.
The film begins during a nuclear assault on New York as seen through the eyes of Eva (Lauren German). Eva alongside a number of the apartment’s tenants manage to join the ‘survivalist super’ of the building, Mickey (Michael Biehn) into the basement-made up fall out shelter where he has stocked piled some food and water. Days past, and the folks begin to crack, panic and then remain or turn into what we can call like “stock characters” in a scenario like this-there is the guy who turns psycho (Milo Ventimiglia), the sensitive geek (Ashton Holmes), the imbalanced one (Michael Eklund), the milf chracter (Rosanna Arquette), the French guy (Ivan Gonzales) and there is the shaky one (Courtney B. Vance). You know exactly where the film is headed--imagine a pressure cooker where different personalities and paranoia come together too close for comfort….
I guess the way to describe the themes tossed around by writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean are the likes of what we’ve seen in “Lord of the Flies” and “Night of the Living Dead”. There is something to be said for a little ambiguity and maybe restraint that can make such themes work. The trick is having a build up that makes the characters grow within the viewers’ perspective, and add a little more drama with powerful dialogue to get its points across. There is a commentary here that is all about human behavior and rather than doing it in a subtle, methodical manner, Gens opts to put everything in your face.
I know, what we see in “The Divide” is possible, but for some reason, finding different layers and dimensions in the script becomes such a chore because of the way the film is executed. Not really sure why, I know most of the characters are supposed to be someone to be truly despised and their behavior is excruciating to watch. But I am not sure, I felt that the characters were empty and a little too exaggerated, it felt like what I was seeing was for show and had no depth or emotions behind them. Yeah, the direction did have some points where it seemed to display a credible character shift (example Eklund’s scene to chop a dead body up and German’s strong-willed realization of the desperate situation), but by then, most of the film has already been hampered by too much cartoonish interaction that all appears to be heavy-handed and perfunctory.
The film is violent, however, I have to say that because of the way it was structured, some scenes become a little ‘funny’. Josh and Bobby are genre characters and despite their scenes of depraved behavior, I find them quite ineffective and a little dull. Most of the other characters are either tortured physically and mentally but none was more humiliated as Rosanna Arquette’s character Marilyn, as I could not believe the lengths of humiliation the actress exposed herself to. I mean, having a menstrual scene and a duct tape bra while being sexually abused should be unnerving, what is more sickening is what the character’s state of mind would be to allow such things to happen to her. German is the strong-willed female who maintains her cool and she serves her part well; but frankly, the other characters such as Adrien and Sam feel like minor fillers because they were underutilized.
The direction by Gens have that dirty and grainy atmosphere to add a gritty feel around his shots. I also saw some Sam Raimi-inspired camerawork that looked kind of cool. I did feel that the direction relied on visuals and in trying to make things over-the-top, rather than developing the roots and core of the narrative. The film feels like it is all about looks and visual and aural manipulation--no ambiguity at all, it is as straight-forward as one can get. I guess while I appreciated the ambitions behind “The Divide”, and admittedly, the first half of the film captured a solid sense of discomfort and paranoia among its characters. I questioned its shifts, and maybe it tried a little too hard, and then pulled itself back. There is a good film in “The Divide”, but it comes up a little short.
RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Special Thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment for sending me a screener copy in the completion of this review.
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Prepare yourself for the unrated movie experience that critics are calling one of the most graphic and extreme end-of-the-world shockers of our time: As nuclear warheads rain down on Manhattan, nine strangers - including Lauren German (HOSTEL: PART II), Milo Ventimiglia ("Heroes"), Courtney B. Vance ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent"), Ashton Holmes ("Revenge") and Rosanna Arquette (PULP FICTION) - barricade themselves in their apartment building's bunker-like basement controlled by the unhinged superintendent (a stunning performance by Michael Biehn of ALIENS and TOMBSTONE). But within days, supplies dwindle, tempers flare and the trapped survivors will be overcome by treachery, madness, sexual torment and savage violence. What follows is intense. It is raw. And it is all brutally, horrifyingly real. This is THE DIVIDE.