The Divide (2011)
Starring: Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia
Writers: Karl Mueller, Eron Sheenan
Director: Xavier Gens
****Pretty safe to read, as I don't give away much more than what you can gather by watching trailers or reading cast interviews****
As nuclear warheads drop down on New York city, a group of apartment residents descend to the basement to try and survive.
Ya know, I like movies that offer up a good time. Movies that make me laugh, or just an action packed thrill ride, or a fucking gorefest of a horror film. But on the same token, sometimes I'm in the mood for a film that just makes me feel like shit. A movie that leaves me cold. A movie that gives me a little less hope for humanity. Xavier Gens definitely took me down a notch on the shitting rainbows scale with The Divide. While I enjoy films that mix genres or throw in a chuckle or two when things get a bit too crazy, I really applaud when one says “Fuck that” and sticks with the gritty, grimy ugliness it's trying to convey.
Now, this aint no exciting ride through an apocalyptic New York full of explosions and shit; this is more about the deterioration of man. Heavier on drama than anything else, The Divide aims to demonstrate the possible effects on people after a cataclysmic event. Get down on this level for a minute - You're trapped in the basement of your apartment building with other tenants you barely know or don't know at all. As the days pass by, these people get restless around you. They change... YOU change. There's nowhere to go, and there's no room for talk about the good ole times. That's all gone, everything is gone, and it's not coming back... forget about it. Try to fucking imagine that. I have no clear idea of what it would be like to try and survive after nuclear destruction, but this film felt pretty realistic, and that scares the piss outta me. I honestly think I'd rather have my face melted off and be done with it.
On a visual level, The Divide is straight un-fucking-stoppable. There's nothing beautiful to look at (unless you want to count Lauren German), but the cinematography somehow manages to capture all the gloom in a breathtaking way. The film carries all kinds of brilliant camera angling, and I love the many times we get to travel through the group as if we're really there, living in the shit with them. Tons of zoom-outs to wide shots capturing the full scale of claustrophobia. It's amazing, I'll leave it at that.
I'm damn impressed with the lot of the characters, too, and performances are solid. I love Michael Biehn in pretty much everything, but he is totally on top of his game here. If there is anything or anyone to steal a smile from you while watching this bleak depiction of survival, it's gonna be him. I don't mean the dude is delivering hokey lines; it's just that his character has a 'no bullshit fuck you' attitude, which I dig, and Biehn fires on all cylinders. It was straight up awesome to watch him work in this type of film. Equally impressive in their roles are Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund. Lauren German is good too, but I honestly wish she had just a bit more depth. The whole cast is really on point. I can't go into explanations, so I'm just gonna say the people in this story go through a lot of extreme shit (obviously), and it has to take a lot to perform in a film like this. I was just reading an interview with Michael Biehn, where he revealed that there was no fixed script. They had to use improvisation and compete with one another, which led to some hostility and even fighting, in some instances. I gotta say if this is the case, well played Mr. Gens. For me, it really helped capture the fucked up and depressing tone a film like this needs.
The Divide isn't all that gory, to be honest, but there's sure as hell some deeply intense moments. A few times I got uncomfortable, even. I'm not saying that as a complaint, as I feel when a film is capable of pulling awkwardness out of you while not going over the top or sometimes leaving things up to you to interpret, that's a powerful thing. Lastly, there's a few visual FX shots that are goddamn amazing. Shit left me with my jaw dropped open.
There is one thing that kinda disappointed me here, and it's the musical score. I'm a big fan of music in films, and it's an element that can either make or break a scene. It wasn't the music itself I was disappointed with, it was the lack of change of music. The opening theme is fucking beautiful and cold and haunting, and I honestly can't remember the last time a song played so well to the credits popping up on the screen. But, I feel like this same composition is used a bit too much throughout the movie. It works for many moments, but eventually it kinda wore thin on me. I dunno, less is more or something like that, or just something different in a few segments would have been nice. With that being said, the music towards the last bit of the film is full of great buildups and all out intensity. It was really dynamic and fit the scene perfectly.
Overall, I think The Divide is a damn fucking good film, but it's definitely going to split the audience. It's not always fast moving, but it's off the chain when it needs to be. If I were to sum up this flick with one word, I'd just simply call it madness. There's really no better way to put it. Just madness.