Review: THE DIVIDE (2012)
Starring Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Lauren German, Michael Eklund, Iván González, Rosanna Arquette, Courtney B. Vance
Directed by Xavier Gens
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
It’s almost hard to believe it’s been about five years since director Xavier Gens first blew genre fans away with his provocative and chilling flick FRONTIER(S) but thankfully, Gens is finally now back in his element with his post-apocalyptic drama THE DIVIDE a film that allows the guy to do precisely what he does best- shock viewers with a haunting tale exploring the darkest sides of humanity.
THE DIVIDE begins with a bang (literally) as Eva (Lauren German) gazes out her apartment window while New York City is reduced to fiery rubble before her eyes. Eva snaps out of it thanks to her husband Sam (Iván González),and the couple make a dash for the secure basement of their apartment complex along with a small group of other tenants, including Josh (Milo Ventimiglia), Bobby (Michael Eklund), Marilyn(Rosanna Arquette), and paranoid superintendent Mickey (Michael Biehn). Thinking they’ve survived the worst of it, soon the survivors of THE DIVIDE soon realize that maybe the people who perished in the blast were the lucky ones as the group slowly begin to lose their sanity and turn on each other in a horrifying sequence of events that should no doubt leave even the most hardened genre fans shaken to the core by the film’s finish.
Fans of Gens’ work won’t be surprised to learn that THE DIVIDE looks, feels and sounds fantastic and for me, I think it’s an even better effort by the now-seasoned director than FRONTIER(S). And even though Gens’ masterfully steers the ship here, it’s really the incredibly strong performances by the entire ensemble in THE DIVIDE that provides the fiery fuel to keep that ship moving forward. Gens gave the cast a large degree of artistic freedom so the final on-screen performances are the result of careful writing by Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean, combined with many improvised moments and ideas from the cast. The emotion and tension is palpable throughout THE DIVIDE, no doubt the result of the real-life friction that arose onset while each of the performers were continuously being pushed to the brink by their director.
It’s seems rather unfair to dissect each performance in THE DIVIDE as the entire ensemble turns in rather stellar turns here (a rarity in the genre world these days) but if I were forced to pick a few standouts, I’d say watching both Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund transform into despicable and disturbing villains was nothing short of brilliant work by both actors. Gens has undoubtedly created one the most stifling and claustrophobic atmospheres to ever be depicted on film and by giving audiences characters in THE DIVIDE that all seem like they could be your real life friends or acquaintances is what makes watching their “Lord of the Flies”-like descent into hedonistic barbarism all the more chilling.
As you may be able to guess, THE DIVIDE is not what one would call a feel-good movie or the kind of flick you’d round up your horror-loving buddies to check out on a Saturday night. But I think that’s what makes the film so intriguing- as you’re watching these people cope with living together underground after a nuclear attack, you begin to feel like you’re stuck down there with them all, front and center for their slow descent into chaotic madness and by immersing us in this sick world, Gens masterfully gets us all to look inside ourselves to see how we’d react, what we’d do when pushed like these characters were, or even debate whether or not we’d know want to survive the apocalypse, based on the provocative director’s hauntingly disturbing vision presented in THE DIVIDE. That being said, I can already see that THE DIVIDE is an early contender for my Best of 2012 list and I’d urge fans to see it on the big screens if they can when the movie hits limited theaters on January 13th.
4.5 out of 5