Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Divide (2011)

The Divide (2011)
The Divide (2011)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Xavier Gens
Starring: Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney B. Vance
Language: English
Duration: 112 min.
Rating: 6.4  

Survivors of a nuclear attack are grouped together for days in the basement of their apartment building, where fear and dwindling supplies wear away at their dynamic.

The Divide is a film directed by French filmmaker Xavier Gens, written by Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean. It premiered in the official selection of the 2011 SXSW Film Festival.

Best known for his debut feature, the ultra violent Frontier(s) which is often associated with the New French Extremity. Xavier Gens' latest is a somber post-apocalyptic thriller that doesn't quite reach for the same gory extremes, but still manages to provide an even more unsettling display of human nature.

The concept is indeed an interesting one, with the film opening on a sudden nuclear attack in Manhattan and a small but diverse group of frantic apartment dwellers finding safety in a makeshift fallout shelter in the basement of their building. This eerily effective set-piece of low ceilings and cramped corridors is where the entire film takes place, and the director along with his skilled cinematographer Laurent Barès (Inside, Livid) capture the dark, dingy, and claustrophobic atmosphere to beautiful effect.

As it turns out, the building manager Mickey, played by remarkable genre actor Michael Biehn (Aliens, Terminator) has been preparing for this moment since 9/11. So the survivors are lucky to have found food, water, and shelter, but they will soon discover that there is a very thin line between civilization and savagery. The stage is set for a wonderfully dark psychological examination.

Unfortunately there are a few things that hold this one back. The writing is full of teases that raise far more questions than are answered. Including flimsy backgrounds for all of the characters and small hints at the scenario's back story that never get explained or fully explored. Would have been better to leave those bits out because the pacing does suffer from too many frustrating dead ends. There's also a lack of any sympathetic characters, these are people you wouldn't want to spend an elevator ride with, let alone the end of the world. So instead of mounting tension, you just want them to hurry up and snap and turn on each other.

The film is most impressive when the group dynamics finally start to unravel. The entire cast really begins to shine as each of their true natures are revealed and unleashed in ugly fashion. As the situation devolves, their humanity erodes into some truly horrifying and unrelentingly dark moments that even fans of genre films may find difficult to handle. Gens clearly has a technical mastery of this stuff, if only he could maintain a compelling story from start to finish.

Bonjour Tristesse

The Divide (2011)

The Divide (2011)

The Divide (2011)

The Divide (2011)

The Divide (2011)

The Divide (2011)

The Divide (2011)

The Divide (2011)


The Angry Lurker said...

I was looking forward to this more before your review but I still need to see it if not just to see Michael Biehn again!

John Williams said...

 This is a very beautiful and interesting article
The most glamorous one i have read today! I will see this movie soon

GED Online

Pete said...

I like the sound of this a lot.  I just watched The Day After which is also a harrowing look at a nuclear attack.  Have always wanted but been a little wary of watching Frontiers but really should give it a go.  Also great to see Biehn back.

Margaret said...

This sounds like a great story, too bad the execution seems to be lacking. I may check this one some day. Great review!

d_4 said...

I could see myself watching this, and probably even enjoying, on tv or something. I won't be renting it or anything, but it'll get watched at some point in the future just because it'll be on.

Jack Deth said...

Hi, Bonjour:

Great catch!

I remember seeing the trailer to this film, but it never really showed for long enough to go and see.

Sounds a bit like 'Right at Your Door' with Mary McCormack and Rory Cochrane, though without the seething claustrophobia and paranoia.

Another plus. If it has Michael Biehn and Courtney Vance, I'll definitely look for it!

You are all invited to drop by FC and FRC this weekend. I've some thoughts you may enjoy.

The Reel Foto said...

sounds great, but too much gore for me

Stevee said...

Interesting - the trailer (which I saw at least 15 times a day when I was working this month) piqued my interest, but since watching I Melt with You I've learned from these things that I can't base my judgement on a trailer because it is so off, haha. I thought we weren't actually getting it in store, but we did, and it turns out it is an R18, so I don't know whether I should bother getting my sister to get it out for me. Maybe someday in the future when I have nothing better to watch!

FrontRoomCinema said...

Cool. I have this one to watch next week. Sounds intriguing.

FrontRoomCinema said...

Scott's Law in full effect. If I like a trailer the film sucks... which is why I worry for Prometheus.

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

I'm going to see it. Upon my first glance at the poster I thought it would be some kind of zombie film though. The way you've described the exposition, right now I don't understand why someone would have such a nice helmet.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yep nothing to go out of your way for.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

 Thanks JD. In a film without much going for it, Biehn is certainly the high point.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

They sure have the marketing wing working overtime for that film.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Haha, I used to get annoyed by them in my 20 minute trips to the video store I can't imagine what it's like having to listen to them on repeat all day.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I'm impressed. This is usually the type you run away from.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I think they were going for a Mila Jovovich angle with the poster, the lead actress does sort of look like her, and I don't think you'll be pleased when you find about abut the helmet.

DEZMOND said...

I followed the production of the film even before they got the release date, and I'm interested to see it, since I do love apocalyptic film in isolated settings.

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