The Divide DVD review
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Apocalypse soon(ish) ...
A city is burning, bombs are dropping and our hero passively looks on before being dragged to safety. This clichéd set-up is well-worn within the apocalyptic genre and as the opening of Xavier Gens' (Hitman, Frontiers) last feature, it acts as an effective ruse to lower expectations. Thankfully, the rest of The Divide generally manages to steer clear of such clichés, resulting in both thought-provoking and shocking viewing.
After a nuclear explosion, the residents of a New York apartment block seek refuge in the building's basement that conveniently doubles as a bomb shelter. Having madly rushed into the basement crushing fellow tenants en-route, nine survivors are forced to tolerate each other's company with no imminent rescue. The door dividing the living and the dead is their only means of escape but is also likely to lead to radiation poisoning.
The situation of course becomes tense and worsens when sounds from above suggest the building has come down and the bunker too may start to collapse. There's no cell phone signal, no radio contact and limited food the caretaker has stashed. Just when the gang are starting to lose hope, a squad team wearing radiation suits blow-torch their way in. Unfortunately, their intentions are not clear but they're brandishing laser guns and not afraid to use force to kidnap the youngest of the gang, Wendy.
With Wendy gone, those remaining decide to investigate outside, using the suit they've acquired from a squaddie they took out in retaliation. Beyond the door, life is puzzling with tented laboratories containing buckets of human hair and bald children in isolated capsules. Before any answers are found, the scientists become aware of their intruder and an already dire situation becomes worse when the basement door is welded shut.
Mickey (Michael Biehn, Planet Terror) is the most instantly memorable character in The Divide, a live-wire type who, as the building's caretaker, elects himself leader. He's first introduced harshly telling little Wendy she can't go outside "because [her] face will melt off and [her] hair will fall out". He's racist and territorial, claiming sections of the basement as his alone ("Nobody goes in there but me") so it's no surprise he begins to grate on other characters.
The first threat to Mickey's leadership comes from Josh (Milo Ventimiglia, in a role far removed from Heroes' Peter Petrelli) who attempts to escape. Eva's boyfriend, Sam (Ivan Gonzalez), is the next to rock the boat before The Divide descends into an all-out battle for the title of alpha male. Aside from distraught mother Marilyn (a skanky looking, under-used Rosanna Arquette), the other characters begin to blur.
As the days pass, tensions over rations predictably escalate, there's talk of cannibalism, the stench of rotting corpses becomes unbearable and members of the group resort to torture. Past histories come back to haunt survivors, others are pressured into hacking up corpses and some seem to be driven by their libido.
Newcomers to film, Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean write a few memorable lines, using religious imagery ("Let there be light") and playing on male bravado: "Nobody but nobody eats Bobby's penis". Gens uses smoking montages to emphasise the boredom and slow passing of time while ominous sounds from outside and above act as reminders of the dangers faced. Muffled audio is used to represent the effects of a wounding, helping viewers to empathise with the inflicted.
Moments are reminiscent of Golding's Lord Of The Flies, with the remaining males sauntering around with shaved heads wearing only pants and eye-liner. The film paints a bleak picture of humanity on the edge, offering no light relief or hope for the future with particularly powerful end shots. The gangs desperate need for survival is portrayed graphically and the film's lead is quite unexpected. The Divide may not be the most original idea and a little slow at times but certainly boasts some striking imagery.
Extras: Behind The Scenes Featurette, Trailer
Special features for The Divide are limited but interesting nonetheless. The 23-minute Behind The Scenes featurette combines interviews and commentary with the cast, Director and Producer broken up into titled sections like “If you could bring one thing into the shelter what would it be?” Milo Ventimiglia’s contribution is insightful as he actually confirms that he made a conscious decision to move away from his Heroes character, actively fighting for the part of Josh.
Producer Ross Dinerstein, introduces Xavier Gens' unusual decision to shoot in sequence, on-set diet regimes are explained and special effects such as prosthetics revealed. A flick-photo sequence of Bobby’s character highlights the significance of character developments and progression for the story while the cast reflect on personal interpretations of the title and share stories from the set.
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