Making its way to Blu-Ray after a successful indie circuit run is The Divide, Xavier Gens‘ apocalypse film that takes place almost entirely in an underground bunker. Instead of focusing on a barren wasteland or a tribe of extreme outlaws, Gens focuses on a small group of people taking shelter below their apartment building. The Divide is the deconstruction of humanity in the rawest form. It’s an ugly, dark and heartless film that also manages to be a nail-biting thriller. It doesn’t play out exactly like one would expect and for that it gets points, but it ends abruptly and moves like a slug, weakening all that it had going for it.
The Divide focuses on a group of 9 strangers that are all taking refugee below their apartment building after a sudden nuclear blast. Mickey (Michael Biehn) is the old and kind-of weird superintendent that has been stockpiling supplies for a long time and Eva (Lauren German) is the rational one that tries to keep everyone calm. The rest of the gang is mostly led by Josh (Milo Ventimiglia) and Bobby (Michael Eklund). The longer the group stays below the rubble and ash above, the quicker their bodies and minds start to erode.
Stranded below the building with enough food to last for a little longer, the group of strangers start forming alliances and eventually begin going to war with each other. Things like food and water become reasons to kill one another as Josh and Bobby slowly start to lose their sanity. While Eva refrains from stirring the pot, she doesn’t exactly do much to keep things orderly. The only one barking orders for a reason is Mickey, but he soon becomes another target to Josh and Bobby.
Xavier Gens provides a uniquely dark and grotesque look at the end of the world. As the film moves along the characters slowly start to breakdown, not only emotionally, but physically too. Their hair falls out, their gums start to bleed and their mental well-being becomes alarming.
This kind of film would not work without more than capable performances by Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund. Both men completely transform themselves into two very different characters by the end of the film. They become far more aggressive and unreasonably dangerous as the hopes of surviving dim. Ventimiglia’s performance is approached with an in-your-face style that works well for the actor and makes you quickly despise him. Eklund’s is far more subtle and slightly more impactful. His approach is more sad than scary as you slowly realize where his character is heading.
Lauren German and Michael Biehn are top billed, but none of them really breathe life into their characters. German’s Eva is passive-aggressive and spends most of the time complaining to others. Her ending “arc” comes on a little too forced and severely damages the final minutes of the film, while Biehn is simply having fun as Mickey. One minute he’s a foul-mouthed asshole with a temper and the next he’s a caring man with some sort of past that is never touched up on. It’s always fun watching Biehn work, but this is just another one of those roles he picks up to have a little fun without breaking a sweat.
The Divide isn’t your average end-of-the-world film. It deals with stronger content that might be unsettling for some to watch, but it deals with it with a focused eye on detail and authenticity. If the world was to come to an end via nuclear attack and people took shelter underneath an apartment building I wouldn’t be surprised if this is exactly how it would play out. But the ending of the film feels rushed and lacking of any sort of impact. The film quickly becomes something that fails to leave a lasting impression and becomes just another one of those films that almost got it.
The 1080p video transfer is murky and full of heavy grain, but that’s exactly how it’s supposed to look. The film is fairly dark and full of dead colors, but it matches the tone and style of the film perfectly. I wouldn’t exactly call this one a winner, but it gets the job done.
The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is however a lot more active than one would think. Everything is evenly displaced throughout the channels, with dialogue on the front and bomb blasts in the rear. The track features lots of echoing and distorted voices, which matches the setting just right, seeing as how everything takes place in a closed bunker. There’s a lot more noise on this track then one might assume.
I’m not sure why Anchor Bay skimmed on the special features, but the package only comes with a DVD version of the film, a theatrical trailer and an audio commentary track. Here are the full details below:
- Audio Commentary: Director Xavier Gens and actors Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund discuss the film’s score, story, violence and process of shooting various scenes. It’s a good listen for fans of the film.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- DVD Copy
The Divide is one of those rare end-of-the-world films that actually focuses on its characters. It’s an original tale that gives a look at what happens when you throw a bunch of people in a closed area for long amount of time. There’s a lot that works well in Gens’ film, but at the same time there are several scenes that go on a little too long or don’t provide good enough reasoning to exist. I give the film credit for elevating the careers of Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund, but I can’t fully recommend the film because of its weak ending and poor character development for Lauren German‘s character.
The Blu-Ray doesn’t look the greatest, but it’s not supposed to. Its 7.1 lossless audio track is impressive, but the lack of any major special features really makes this something you shouldn’t buy unless you absolutely loved it.
The Divide is an intense, dark and brutal film that shows just how horrible people can become when faced with harsh conditions.