I like Xavier Gens. I really do. His 2007 horror flick “Frontier(s)” is one seriously horrifying experience, and that’s high praise coming from this impossibly jaded long-time horror fan. However, as much as I liked the talented director’s unflinchingly brutal feature-length debut, his first foray into Hollywood, namely the 2007 action effort “Hitman”, was a serious dud. Although the movie contained the filmmaker’s penchant for dark visuals and brutal violence, it lacked energy and excitement. Even for a video game adaptation, “Hitman” was pretty terrible. After that, Gens went dark, and with the exception of a French TV movie, his output came to an abrupt halt.
Thankfully, Gens is back in the proverbial saddle with the 2011 post-apocalyptic drama “The Divide”, a film that allows the guy to do precisely what he does best. Which, of course, is to introduce you to a bevy of morally bankrupt characters, assault you with a ton of visceral violence, and dampen your spirits with an increasingly depressing atmosphere. And while it’s hard to say that you thoroughly enjoyed a movie as dark and disturbing as “The Divide”, the film is definitely worth watching if you have any sort of interest in apocalyptic cinema. As with “Frontier(s)”, Gens’ latest endeavor isn’t for the squeamish or the prudish. Watching it with your parents and/or your siblings isn’t recommended, especially if they go to church each and every Sunday.
The picture opens with a bang. Literally. Someone has dropped a bomb on a major metropolitan city, and the mushroom clouds are rising towards the heavens. Inside an ordinary, everyday apartment complex, a rag-tag group of residents make their way into the superintendent’s basement, a surprisingly spacious abode that effectively protects them from the radioactive dust that’s on the other side of an extremely thick door. Like most movies of this nature, this band of would-be survivors represent an interesting cross-section of modern life, and it doesn’t take long before tempers start flaring. A struggle for power ensues, though it’s painfully clear that the building’s super retains dominance. As they wait for rescue to come, these strangers strike an uneasy alliance. Peace in these conditions, of course, can only last for so long.
The integrity of this make-shift underground society starts to crumble when a small cluster of soldiers wearing HazMat suits kick down the basement door. At first, it appears that these peculiar individuals are there to lead our heroes to safety. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. Before they can react, the soldiers stuff the youngest member of our motley crew into a strange bag and whisk her away to lands unknown, much to the dismay of her distraught mother. Understandably angered by this confrontation, the survivors decide to fight back with guns blazing. With their newfound enemies dispatched, the group turns their collective attention to the world outside the door. And as one character smartly observes, they don’t like what they find.
“The Divide” is not a feel-good movie, and it’s definitely not something you want to watch with your friends on a Friday night. Despite the film’s many strengths, it’s not a fun ride by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s exactly what makes it so intriguing. Watching these people cope with living together underground after a nuclear attack is engaging, and their slow descent into utter madness is what keeps you glued to your seat. The flick is spearheaded by an impressive ensemble cast, though it’s clear right from the start that Lauren German and Michael Eklund are the true standouts. That having been said, everyone involved does a fine job with their respective roles, including Courtney B. Vance, an actor I’ve never really cared for. If I stomach that guy, you know the movie has to be somewhat entertaining.
Whenever you’re feeling down in the dumps and you’re a looking for a like-minded cinematic companion, you should strongly considering giving “The Divide” a shot. As I mentioned earlier, it’s certainly not a movie you’d want to watch if you’re looking for a good time. However, it’s an excellent ride to take, especially if you’re a fan of “Frontier(s)”. It’s good to see Gens delivering on the promise of that film, and I hope this is a sign of things to come. “The Divide” comes with a very strong recommendation, though I must admit that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If misery, despair, and suffering aren’t your thing, take a long walk in the fresh air, instead. Post apocalyptic movies are often brutal and uncompromising in their depiction of human desperation, though they rarely take things to the level on-display here.
Xavier Gens (director) / Karl Mueller, Eron Sheean (screenplay)
CAST: Lauren German … Eva
Michael Biehn … Mickey
Milo Ventimiglia … Josh
Michael Eklund … Bobby
Ashton Holmes … Adrien
Rosanna Arquette … Marilyn
Courtney B. Vance … Delvin
Iván González … Sam