The Divide
dir Xavier Gens
scr Karl Mueller, Eron Sheean
prd Ross M Dinerstein, Juliette Hagopian, Nathaniel Rollo, Darryn Welch
with Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia, Michael Biehn, Michael Eklund, Rosanna Arquette, Ashton Holmes, Courtney B Vance, Ivan Gonzalez, Abbey Thickson, Jennifer Blanc, Peter Stormare
release US 13.Jan.12, UK 20.Apr.12
11/Canada 1h40
The Divide
Apocalyptic: Neighbours v neighbour

ventimiglia biehn arquette
edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Divide High-energy production values and kinetic physicality draw us into this scrappy end-of-the-world thriller. But it isn't long before the plot and characters have nowhere left to go but down to the depths of human depravity. And by the end it's impossible to see the point.

As missiles rain down on New York City, nine people take refuge in their building's basement. After the dust settles, contamination-suited goons burst in and grab a young girl (Thickson) from her hysterical mother (Arquette), then clearly intend to kill the adults. After a rebellion, they are instead sealed in the basement. Soon a hierarchy develops around building repairman Mickey (Biehn) and his stash of supplies. Then the increasingly menacing Josh (Ventimiglia) and his mercurial friend Bobby (Eklund) take control. Meanwhile, Eva (German) is carefully treading the middle ground.

Director Gens approaches this as a stylised stage play set in a contained space with carefully choreographed action and theatrically overstated performances. This eliminates any subtlety from the characters while continually punching the nihilistic theme that, under the right conditions, human beings are all capable of the most hideous behaviour imaginable. The result is a film that's pretty hard to watch.

A few actors manage to maintain their dignity: German's Eva, Holmes' Adrien (Josh's little brother) and Vance's Delvin are the only characters who observe what's happening before doing something stupid. Ventimiglia adds some shading to the sadistic Josh. And Biehn's Mickey is a control freak who can't bear it when power slips from his grasp. On the other hand, Arquette is wasted in a revoltingly misogynistic role, Gonzalez's Sam (Eva's boyfriend) does little besides panic between rounds of mental instability, and Eklund's Bobby is merely a psychotic nutcase.

In other words, the filmmakers are just reducing a group of neighbours to their animalistic instincts. While this is an interesting idea, the movie fails to say anything particularly interesting, wallowing in this grubby, sweaty sewer without offering much complexity or insight. By the end, it's irrelevant that the suited soldiers didn't kill them, and we certainly don't care if any of them - or indeed humanity as a race - survives. Maybe that's the point.

cert 15 themes, language, strong violence, sexuality 19.Jun.11 eiff

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall