The Divide (2011)
After missing out on this movie at EIFF 2011 (fellow Flickfeaster John took that one, and his review is here) I have been wanting to see The Divide for quite some time. Most of the reviews I saw, without reading them in depth, seemed to be positive and I was pleased to see Michael Biehn being given some praise and doing the film festival rounds to promote the film (by all accounts, Biehn is a lovely guy and quite a fan favourite). Yet I was still hesitant, not really knowing how the premise of people trapped in a room was going to be presented by director Xavier Gens. Gens was also responsible for Frontier(s) (which I didn’t love as much as most other horror fans) and Hitman (which I found surprisingly enjoyable) so I knew that this could go either way for me.
So what is the storyline here? Well, I’ve just already covered it really. The movie begins with a bang, literally, as some attack occurs on America and people panic and try to get shelter. A lucky few get into the basement dwelling of a building that paranoid, but prepared, Mickey (Biehn) was hoping to keep all to himself. It’s not long at all until tension starts to rise, people start to divide rations in their mind and unthinkable acts become easier and easier to accept.
I hate to put it so bluntly but I must say that The Divide was nothing more than an okay movie elevated by a willingness to go to some very dark places and that I’d still much rather watch something more effective like The Hole (2001). Comparing the two films may seem lazy and a bit of a stretch but it’s really not – the two are remarkably similar. Both feature people trapped in an underground environment with very limited supplies and both show how quickly people can descend into savagery when self-preservation becomes the biggest concern. The main difference between the two is that The Hole managed to be a bit more clever and subtle with the material (and I am well aware that it’s not a subtle film in the grand scheme of things) while The Divide seems to give people merely a few hours in claustrophobic panic before turning them on each other like rabid dogs. Okay, that may not actually be the case but I couldn’t tell because the script and execution of the material don’t do enough to show more time passing during the first half of the movie.
The cast all do okay, I suppose, but they’re stuck with the thankless task of playing unlikeable characters interacting with other unlikeable characters. Lauren German is someone I always like seeing onscreen and she, at least, gets to be the steady moral compass for most of the movie but the likes of Milo Ventimiglia, Michael Eklund and Rosanna Arquette are all horrible, horrible people in different ways. Ivan Gonzalez isn’t that much better. Ashton Holmes is too passive a lot of the time, although his character does have a clear sense of right and wrong, while Courtney B. Vance and Biehn are both given some extra shading to their characters that comes along too late for either man to really make the most of.
The script, by Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean, is hit and miss. Some of the exchanges and conversations are disturbing and/or thought-provoking while other moments are almost laughable in the way that insanity becomes the norm. Remember when Stephen King wrote almost every book to include a character who would crack under the strain of his own personal issues and cause almost as many problems as the supernatural danger? Well, The Divide feels very much like a movie populated by those characters.
Interesting on a number of occasions, this is another movie from director Xavier Gens that I won’t be rushing back to rewatch. Give it a try for yourself and see what you think but I thought it was overlong, overcooked and overly praised by people for reasons I just can’t figure out (which I may just end up having to call “The Mr. Biehn Factor”).
DIRECTOR: XAVIER GENS
WRITER: KARL MUELLER, ERON SHEEAN
STARS: LAUREN GERMAN, MICHAEL BIEHN, MILO VENTIMIGLIA, COURTNEY B. VANCE, ASHTON HOLMES, ROSANNA ARQUETTE, IVAN GONZALEZ, MICHAEL EKLUND, ABBEY THICKSON
RUNTIME: 112 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: GERMANY, USA, CANADA