Review: Insipid End of the World Dealings in Xavier Gen's 'The Divide'
by Jeremy Kirk
January 13, 2012
Evidently a post-apocalyptic world is full of disgusting human beings who would gladly beat and rape you for a water supply. Good thing we have Xavier Gens to show us what that looks like. That's precisely what he's done with The Divide, a promising premise featuring more than a few multi-dimensional characters. Unfortunately, the intrigue to the film ends there, as it quickly devolves into gross people doing gross things to other gross people. For two hours. What we're left with is, yes, probably a pretty accurate depiction of how a group of people could break down in the days after a nuclear strike, but an uninteresting one made so in its tedious execution.
The opening moments show the nuclear bombs blasting the city. A group of people living in an apartment building quickly race to the bomb shelter underneath. Along with the building's janitor, played by Michael Biehn, a survivalist who has made the underground shelter his home, the survivors quickly begin to question how they can continue surviving and what horrors await them outside. As with any film about a small group of people trapped somewhere, the people here begin to bicker, then begin to argue, and before too long, sides are made. The sides really begin to break apart once the group is welded into the bunker by hazmat suited men.
Gens does a good job early establishing the geography of the bunker, it's short hallways and side rooms making the area much more interesting than a single room. He shows us enough of the shelter to let the claustrophobia set in, to see the ceilings as well as the walls to let us know we're locked in here too. It's a film that provides ample amounts of atmosphere, but The Divide's problems don't lie in its establishment.
The film moves with a brisk pace early on. Lots of dialogue is thrown about explaining character attitudes and connections with one another, and the men outside who weld the group in comes relatively early in the film. These men represent an interesting facet that could have and should have been explored more, who they are and what experiments they are conducting - they take a girl from the group early in the film. But Gens is far more concerned with showing how awful this group of people can become to each other. The film comes to a grinding halt. From there we watch as the group breaks down further and further. And then the violence really kicks in.
As with Frontiere(s), Gens doesn't shy away from the gore. The Divide is loaded with it, almost to an extent where the director's intentions are to shock and make the viewer uncomfortable. Secrets about Biehn's janitor are revealed that results in even more violence, but it all becomes dull far too quickly and drags on for far too long. There might have been a more interesting 90 minute film Gens could have crafted with screenwriters Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean, but the plodding pace flushes any energy the film could have had right down the toilet. We're hardly even given a sense of who the protagonist is here, as the people we really get to know are foul or villainous and the people we're supposed to care for either get killed off early or are so one-dimensional you don't have any opinion on whether they live or die at all.
To their credit all the actors involved here give their respective performances full attention. Biehn isn't the best delivering dialogue and Milo Ventimiglia was going into the "Sylvester Stallone yelling" mode one too many times. But no one in the cast shies away from getting dirty both in terms of character and appearance. Rosanna Arquette as the mother of the girl the hazmat men take is satisfactorily bonkers in the early moments, but goes quiet early and stays that way for the remainder of the film. Lauren German is solid in the character she's been given, but you'd be hard pressed to remember her name was Eva without the aid of IMDb. That's not to German's discredit but that of the screenwriters.
It's not shocking to see people simply turn on one another in the face of a crisis any more. At least, that's what The Divide tells us, so we have to witness them hacking each other up and turning a shelter built for survival into a den of torture and disgust. It's no more interesting than watching a bug get run over by a car. But it's made all the more disappointing when something is set up as well as The Divide is. It truly shows you that dying in a nuclear blast is better than surviving one, but it does so with such tedious pacing and insipid imagery. By the time The Divide is over you don't want to watch the end of the world any longer. That's not a credit to the people behind this film.
Jeremy's Rating: 4 out of 10