THE DIVIDE (2012) Review

Directed by: Xavier Gens
Starring: Michael Biehn, Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia

Many movies have taught us that when you take a group of people and lock them all together in a confined space, bad things happen. Such is the premise of THE DIVIDE, a movie which follows a group of survivors who have taken refuge in the basement of their apartment complex after a nuclear attack on New York City. With the deadly levels of radiation outside their bunker these people will need to stay inside for a long time, but eventually of course they start to clash and disagreements quickly turn to violence. As the tagline says “The lucky ones dies in the blast”

THE DIVIDE starts with a bang, literally. A nuclear attack is underway and although we don’t really see a lot of it, it’s pretty obvious what with all of the people running for their lives and everything. Through all of the jostling and running and screaming we follow a relatively small group of people rushing through a heavy steel door which then slams shut behind them and suddenly it all goes quiet and dark. Somebody hits the lights and these survivors get their first glimpse at the place they will be calling home for a long time. For some it may even turn out to be their tomb. A few nerve rattling aftershocks later and we are introduced to the characters we will be spending the next 2 hours with.

Mickey (Biehn) is the apartment super and this basement is his territory, an underground complex he has turned into a fallout shelter for when the ‘rag-heads’ attack. He’s a gruff don’t-take-no-shit-from-nobody type of guy and it’s from him that we get the lowdown on the situation. He explains how they may not be able to venture outside for a long time, but stops short of saying just how long that may be. Along with Mickey there are Eva and Sam a couple with a fractured relationship, a woman named Marylin and her young daughter, two brothers Josh and Adrien and a friend Bobby and finally Delvin who seems to be the token black guy. Mickey instantly clashes with Josh and Bobby who turn out to be the stereotypical nobody-tells-me-what-the-fuck-to-do young idiot males. They ignore his warnings and proceed to try and open the door but back off when Mickey pulls an axe on them.

After things finally settle down and everybody seems to be aware of the gravity of their situation something unexpected happens. There’s a knock at the door. A knock at the door? After a nuclear blast? Yes that’s right. The door is torched open and in step a bunch of soldiers wearing radiation suits and carrying some heavy weaponry. But is this a rescue crew or a clean-up squad? That question is swiftly answered as they abduct the young girl and then bullets start flying. The shit has most definitely hit the fan.

It’s pretty predictable by this point that things are just going to go from bad to worse. Arguments make way for violence, questioning turns into torture, sexual appetites rear their ugly heads, radiation sickness sets in and it’s unclear just how many people are going to make it out alive.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. THE DIVIDE is most definitely not an original concept, it’s also predictable and full of characters who make stupid decisions. The acting in parts is below par and the nature of the confined space means that shooting locations are limited. Despite all this however, I really enjoyed this movie. With not much in the way of a plot this is definitely a character driven film, and this is where the movie pulls you in. Even though half of the characters seem like assholes or idiots who you just wish would die, it is really entertaining watching them interact especially after they all start turning on each other. Some of their transformations are terrifying (see accompanying images for examples).
And when the action starts it doesn’t let up until the end. You may think that spending two hours in this claustrophobic setting would become boring but somehow it manages to do just the opposite. The suitably dim and dank subterranean surroundings make for some panicky scenes especially when gunfire is thrown into the mix. And the knowledge that they are all basically rats in a trap is always present.

I mentioned below par acting earlier but thankfully this is the exception rather than the rule and for the most part everybody does a great job, Michael Biehn especially. Things get rather brutal and depraved during the course of the film and may be a little too much for some people, especially if you find yourself sensitive to scenes of torture or rape.
But otherwise THE DIVIDE is a pretty solid action packed movie. Xavier Gens has taken a well used idea and given it new life by filling it to the brim with depravity, brutality, doom and gloom. Well worth a watch.

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