Posted November 14, 2011 by David Watson in Films
 
 

The Divide


As a nuclear fireball engulfs New York,

As a nuclear fireball engulfs New York, a disparate group of survivors
flees the unexplained attack, seeking shelter in the basement of their
apartment building as the world above them collapses.

Luckily, the building super Mickey
(Michael Biehn) is a survivalist nut
who, ever since 9/11, has been gleefully anticipating the worst and has stocked
the cellar with enough basic food and water to ride out the apocalypse. He just hadn’t expected to be sharing
his refuge with so many uninvited houseguests, among them a trio of cocky,
young jerks (Milo Ventimiglia, Michael
Eklund & Ashton Holmes
), weak lawyer Sam (Iván González) and his
girlfriend Eva (Lauren Graham),
middle-aged Delvin (Courtney B. Vance),
fragile single mother Marilyn (Rosanna
Arquette
) and her teenage daughter Wendi (Abbey Thickson).

With the aid of a fire axe, Mickey
immediately establishes his authority, sealing the door and decreeing that
nobody will enter or leave the basement until the fallout beyond has reached a
safe level. With tensions starting
to build and petty bickering threatening to spill over into full-on violence,
Delvin mans and operates the basement’s shortwave radio round the clock, trying
to contact the outside world in the hopes of rescue.

Instead he attracts a force of
biohazard-suited, assault rifle-toting attackers, who may be soldiers or just
very well provisioned scavengers.
They briefly invade the basement, kidnapping Wendi before welding shut
the basement door, trapping the survivors inside and leaving them to their
fate.

With supplies running low and the
survivors starting to show signs of radiation sickness, tensions within the
group start to escalate, fuelled by paranoia, despair and hunger. Splitting into factions, the survivors
start to turn on one another with alpha-male Josh (Milo Ventimiglia) and friend Bobby (Michael Ekland) challenging Mickey’s rule.

As the situation devolves into
violence, torture, degradation, psychosexual torment and death, only the
enigmatic Eva struggles to maintain any sense of decency. But when the
chance of escape presents itself she finds herself forced into a vicious,
desperate struggle for survival…

In times of recession (or are we
officially now in a worldwide Depression?) the number of sci-fi and horror
movies hitting the screens traditionally rises exponentially, so brace
yourselves for the coming apocalypse.
In the last couple of years we’ve already seen such rich and diverse
apocalyptic visions as John Hillcoat’s
The Road, Jim Mickle’s Stake Land,
Lars von Trier’s Melancholia and David Mackenzie’s Perfect
Sense.
We also have Marc Forster’s
World War Z and Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day
On Earth
to look forward to as well as a new version of The Day Of The Triffids and Steve Carell and Keira ‘Thunderbird’
Knightley
falling for each other in upcoming end of days rom-com Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World. It seems there is no end to end of the
world flicks.

None of them however have imagined
quite as dark, nasty and ugly a vision of the end of the world as Xavier Gens does in The Divide. Like Satre, Gens, director off the fantastic Frontier(s), obviously believes “Hell
is other people,” and after watching The
Divide
, you will too. Gens’
survivors are a microcosm of society and the film’s horror lies not with
attacking aliens, zombies or any other external vanquishable threat but in the
steady erosion of the morality and values of an
ostensibly decent collection of people.
Gens exposes the fragility of the thin veneer of civilisation we all
hide behind and the ease with which we regress to savagery once free of
society’s rules and consequences.
The group’s descent into squalid feral madness isn’t only inevitable,
it’s human nature. With no escape
from their hellish prison, the survivors turn on one other, each individual
pushed to the extremes of their natures, devolving into a pack of murderous,
rape-happy monsters indulging their darkest fantasies and desires, willing to
torture and kill each other over a can of beans, a bottle of water.

With the exception of one abortive
exploratory foray into the outside world that has disastrous consequences, Gens
wisely restricts the action to the basement. Making the most of its grimy claustrophobia, he turns the
screws on his victims allowing minor tensions and disputes to bubble over into
violence, allowing sexual jealousy and paranoia to gnaw at them before
psychosis consumes them. The
violence is brutal, bloody, cringe-inducing, and the degradation of Arquette in
particular is stomach-churning. Like
happening upon a car crash you’ll want to look away but will stare in rapt
fascination as these friends and neighbours destroy one another.

The performances are
flawless. Biehn hasn’t had a role
this good since his psychotic Navy SEAL in The
Abyss
and his Mickey is a swaggering racist despot, a dog whose day has
finally come. After years playing
nice guy Peter on the interminable Heroes, Ventimiglia finally gets to show
some acting chops as the cocky thrusting Josh while Arquette reminds you just how
good an actress she could be with a fearless, devastating performance as the
victimised Marilyn. As the cool,
watchful Eva, horror veteran Lauren German is the closest thing the film has to
a sympathetic character, a hero even, and she holds the film together with a
subtle, restrained performance, the calm unblinking eye at the centre of the
storm. But The Divide’s real revelation is Michael Eklund whose intense,
committed performance as Bobby is both terrifying and sympathetic, a sinewy all
too human monster.

The Divide is not an
easy film to watch. But then, it
shouldn’t be. It’s a movie about
the end of the world. It should
depress you, it should disgust you, it should haunt you. And it will. Bleak, intense, claustrophobic and horrific, The Divide
is a hard shining jewel of a film, a post-apocalyptic movie that dares to
suggest that the worst thing about the end of the world may be surviving
it. Dark, violent and disturbing, The Divide will devastate you.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com