THE DIVIDE (2011)
One of the themes that often pops up in post-apocalyptic movies is the idea that we have more to fear from each other than we do from outside forces like invading aliens, nuclear fallout and rabid zombies. The Divide employs this theme but ratchets it up to something 10 times bleaker and more disturbing than what we’ve seen before. In the same vein as Fernando Meirelles’ Blindness, The Divide centers around a group of people in an apartment complex who find themselves sole survivors after some sort of nuclear attack. They hole themselves up in the basement of their apartment building, where their miscreant of a super Mickey (Michael Biehn) has some supplies that could get them through the fallout. As the film progresses, we realize that surviving is something these people will have to do against each other. The film also stars Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia, Rosanna Arquette, Ashton Holmes, Iván González, Courtney B. Vance and Michael Eklund.
Yesterday I watched David Fincher’s Zodiac again and one of the lines from that film resurfaced while I was watching The Divide. The Zodiac killer, in one of his letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, talked about man being the “most dangerous animal”. This certainly applies to The Divide, where food and water is in shortage and living conditions aren’t exactly up to Shangri-La standards, so shit is inevitably going to hit the fan. The film bands together a group of already fragile human beings and as they find themselves having to do things they’ve never imagined themselves doing (such as hacking human bodies to pieces), their sanity starts to fray.
The film doesn’t waste time establishing characters or setting up the plot, it just gets right to it. Boom. Nuclear attack, bunch of people are stuck in the basement of an apartment complex. From observing the interactions between characters, the audience establishes their own ideas of who is what to whom. There is an attempt to explain the origin of the nuclear attack, or at least some sort of conspiracy hinted at but never fully explained, which made it sort of unnecessary to begin with. But most of the story centers around how far people will go to survive, reminiscent of Saw or the aforementioned Blindness. Performance-wise everyone did a good job, particularly Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund who were both terrific, however they were ill-served by a mediocre script. I also had a problem with the use of music in the film. Much as I loved Jean-Pierre Taïeb’s music composed for this film, I thought the theme was played way too much, often in the most inopportune of moments. The use of music is fine, but if you play the same tune again and again it not only becomes repetitive but also amateurish. This is reminiscent of what my film professor told us in one class: “never Mickey-Mouse music through a film,” he said.
Overall the film was okay. Not terrible, but also nothing really special. It was awesome watching Michael Biehn explode in a series of expletives every five minutes; his hermit-like cretin of a character was pretty awesome. There were moments of greatness but they were very few and far between. An okay effort from French filmmaker Xavier Gens, but one that could’ve used a bit more back story, better dialogue and maybe less of a heavy hand when it came to the music.