Director: Xavier Gens
Starring: Michael Biehn, Lauren German, Rosanna Arquette, Milo Ventimiglia
Running time: 107 minutes
Release date: Cinema 20 April 2012, (limited) DVD 14 May 2012
When your film opens with a shot of New York being obliterated by nuclear bombs, as The Divide chooses to do, then you’d better have a doozy of a movie to follow it. Unfortunately, Xavier Gens – who directed both the brutal Frontier(s) and the poorly received videogame adaption Hitman – can’t keep the epic feel running beyond that opening scene.
When the city they named twice is levelled, a group of survivors take refuge in the storage bunker under their apartment block, albeit at the chagrin of the building supervisor (Biehn). Locking themselves in, all they can do is sit around and wait to be rescued, but when there’s a knock at the door and the visitors come in, they are anything but saviours, instead kidnapping one of them and attempting to kill the others. The group fight back and manage to dispatch the unwelcome guests, but it is one of the few times that the individuals show any semblance of working together. Josh (Ventimiglia) dons a radiation suit and ventures out into the vacuum tunnels to try and find out what’s going on, but finds only more questions instead and runs back to the relative safety of the bunker. The group are then sealed in, with the door being sealed shut by their attackers from the other side.
From here on in, the group begins to disintegrate, as social and psychological barriers start to erode and the baser human instincts materialise. Paranoia and delusions kick in, with infighting, bullying and threats turning into violence, torture, rape and murder as each person realises that, when it comes down to it, we’re all alone and it’s every man/woman for themselves. The makeup effects for the radiation sickness suffered by the characters are very good and the bunker set, in which the majority of the running time is confined, is suitably eerie, with nooks and crannies for the characters to hide in.
There was never going to be a promise of a happy ending with a nuclear apocalypse having taken place, so prepare for a downbeat movie. However, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why The Divide falls short of being a great, claustrophobic film. The director is known for his unforgiving style – at least in Frontier(s) – and he has a really good cast to work with, including a wonderfully bat-shit performance from Arquette and an eventually nasty turn from Ventimiglia. It seems that the main issue is the fact that Gens seems to have been stymied somewhat, having to reign in the violence, whereas he may have really wanted to depict the descent into madness of the characters as they gradually disintegrate. A final shot bookends the story nicely to remind us of exactly what has happened outside the boundaries of the bunker but, nevertheless, we are left with questions that almost demand to be answered and the film inevitably leaves us hanging. There are various running times which are suggested if you look around, so it is possible that there are at least another ten minutes which were cut out, ten minutes which may help to fill in some of the blanks or flesh out some of the weaker scenes.
The best way to describe the film is to combine Cabin Fever with the Thora Birch version of The Hole, and yet it doesn’t have the effect either of those productions had individually. The Divide will do just that – some will love it, some will hate it. Either way, it falls short of achieving what it deserves to accomplish.
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