Xavier Gens’ (Frontier(s), Hitman) end of the world film The Divide firmly draws the line between good and bad and then lets the bad fester away till there is no good left. It is nothing new for a Xavier Gens film and maybe that is the problem.
The quick synopsis – Survivors of a nuclear attack on New York are grouped together for days in the basement of their apartment building, where fear and dwindling supplies wear away at their dynamic.
After some horrifying nuclear attack visuals at the start of the film, we get thrust into the rush for safety and end up in the basement of the building with a group of survivors. From the moment the audience meets the building super Mickey (Michael Biehn) we know that he is not quite right, then with the rest of the group in the room running the gamut from A-hole to D-bag there are already major tensions and the majority of them are just horrible people with no coping mechanism.
The ensemble cast all do a reasonable job. Biehn does over act a touch but it is not too big an issue. Lauren Graham plays Eva in an understated fashion, which is in direct contrast to the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, of the survivors only Eva is remotely likable and here lies the biggest problem with film: There are absolutely no redeeming features in anyone but Eva (Lauren German). It is difficult to maintain the tension when you are just waiting to see which jerk gets cabin fever first and starts going crazy, especially as time wears on and each person becomes sick with the radiation. Seriously, you’d rather take your chances in the fallout zone.
The writing by Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean isn’t all that strong, although there is a few really good moments, unfortunately they too few and far between. Without spoiling it, there is a big plot contrivance which when it occurs could send the film off into a different and probably less predictable path but, alas, after the initial shock and subsequent investigation, it is never explained nor seen again and really served no purpose except to move the plot along.
The look of the film is just about perfect. Washed out colours, except for the primary colours of red and blue (perhaps a deliberate ploy by Gens, considering we see that Mickey was either a fire fighter or was involved in the September 11 attacks in some way) and the colour tone really do give the film the grimy, dirty look that it needed. There are a few shocking moments which Gens handles well, however there seemed to be a hesitation to go ‘all the way’ in some scenes which was odd given that a more visceral experience could’ve led to greater tension.
Many great apocalyptic films have something say about society in general (think The Road and how despite it being a very depressing film, ends on the note of hope and the good in human beings) however The Divide doesn’t succeed in doing this, unless the point is that human being can do some really awful things to each other, which we already knew. A well-made film that ultimately goes nowhere, having characters that you don’t care about. The Divide leaves you with nothing. No hope, no future.