Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: The Divide

Non Spoiler Review:
The Divide opens with a chilling scene of apartment resident Eva watching mushroom clouds erupt across New York as missiles rain down. She's pulled away by a neighbour to flee to the basement before the building collapses. The superintendent, Mickey, has a fully stocked bomb shelter, and they make it in with no time to spare while shutting out the mass of people following.

The Divide is directed by Xavier Gens, and I'm unfamiliar with his other features. However, it stars genre great Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens) as Mickey in probably one of his best roles to date. Rossanna Arquette is Marilyn, Milo Vantimiglia (Heroes) as Josh, Ashton Holmes as Adrien, and Michael Eklund as Bobby. Lauren German plays Eva, the character that seems to best represent the audience as observer to all the events that unfold in the close confines of the shelter. It's not a well known cast by any means, but it really works here, allowing for acting to shine through without the distraction of big name stars.

The Divide is a character piece, using the science fiction premise to launch an examination of human nature when civilization and hope are stripped away (especially true with Eva staring at multiple nuclear explosions without batting an eyelash). The survivors struggle with endless amounts of time with nothing to do, while wondering what's happened beyond their metal door. Is it a terrorist attack, or has there been a global nuclear strike? All the while Mickey warns of radioactive dust should they dare to try to open the door while rationing the limited supply of food. They soon realize there actually are things happening just outside.

Biehn comes across as quite the paranoid crazy man, though we get a peak into his back story later on that fleshes out the reason behind his behaviour, and he actually remains consistent throughout. It's up for debate how accurately the path of other characters plays out, though for myself I found it to be pretty believable given the circumstances.

The Divide succeeds in its character study, but did offer a very meager glimpse of what actually happened. That might leave the harder science fiction fans frustrated with questions (including me), but I can see where the writers were going with it and what they wanted to say. Though I will criticize that when they chose to dabble in bringing in more science fiction elements they were very much plot devices to move key pieces into position, rather than provide any insight into what was going on beyond the walls of the shelter.

Visually, the film is quite striking—beginning with horrific renderings of New York's destruction and the slow decay of the stark shelter and the characters themselves as they suffer the affects of radiation poisoning over the course of their imprisonment. I also have to mention the eerie soundtrack, especially the opening and closing piano pieces that added to the sense of despair. The ending is very effective, while not providing the answers many will want.

The Divide really is a close cousin to Blindness in the way that human depravity reveals itself. Of course it owes a lot to such works as Lord of the Flies. And the dark tone also brings to mind The Mist (though with much fewer science fiction elements). If these two films are favorites, then The Divide will fit in nicely with their themes. If the darker sides of human nature are not your thing, then definitely give this one a pass.

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