It’s completely terrifying to think that our country (or world) can be unexpectedly attacked, making us lose everything in the blink of an eye. The apocalyptic horror, The Divide, explores what happens to individuals when they are faced with a new world and forced to make decisions that will affect how they will survive. The movie is a gritty and dark depiction of humans and their actions, resulting in a watchable and depressing film.
The Divide, directed by Xavier Gens, immediately puts the audience in the midst of chaos, thrusting us into a world being overcome by a nuclear attack. The audience is introduced to a group of survivors who seek refuge in the basement of their apartment building, which also stands as a bomb shelter. Right away we see that the group consists of several different personalities that may not necessarily work well together, especially the self-proclaimed “leader”, Mickey, brilliantly played by Michael Biehn.
Biehn’s character knows a lot about nuclear attacks, or at least he makes it seem that way when he starts explaining the aftermath and effects of an attack. He insists that the group must stay in the shelter until enough time has passed for the radiation to die down. Hmm…doesn’t that take years? Well, obviously some people in the group don’t like that idea and confrontation arises very early on in the film.
The group is kept somewhat calm as they are provided with food and water, however, the tension is palpable through the screen as we see the characters becoming increasingly restless and uptight over the situation, as they should be in the given scenario. However, most of the group is sure that they will be rescued by someone and when people do eventually come to them, they foolishly go to them with open arms.
Things get weird when the door to their bunker is bust open and a group of white-suited men with guns step inside. Soon, the survivors sense hostility and when the men kidnap the daughter of a group member, they realize that they are not going to be rescued–at least not by them.
The suited men attempt to terminate the survivors but the survivors overpower and take them down. Using one of the suits, one of the survivors, Josh (Milo Ventimiglia), exits the bunker only to find that the situation is a lot more unexplainable and worse on the outside. From here on out, things only get worse for the group as tensions build higher and the struggle for power intensifies.
Very early on in the film we can get a sense that Mickey and Josh are going to butt heads because both characters have the alpha male quality. Both men want to be in control, no matter what it takes to have it, and when they have the power in their hands it is hard not to abuse it.
It’s terrifying to watch Josh grow as a character and evolve into a horrible person as a result of the dire situation he is forced into. His character becomes a bully and a monster in comparison to everyone else. It was different to see Ventimiglia play an awful and frightening character both physically and morally as opposed to the usual likeable and good characters he has played in the past.
This movie is a good case study of what unsuitable circumstances can do to an individual and how it can morph their psyche. However, I don’t fully believe that a person will do a total 360 when put into a horrible situation; if they are an evil person to begin with, their characteristics will only intensify because they have no one really judging or watching over them any more. I think if you are forced to make life and death decisions, as Eva (Lauren German) was in the film, you will make selfish decisions. BUT I don’t think you will just start up killing people for fun.
Before this film came out, Biehn stated that it was the worst experience he had making a film. He explained that all of the actors hated each other and everyone was fighting for screen time. Apparently, the director allowed people to improvise a lot, which resulted in jealousies and resentment among the cast, which in a sense was good because the characters were at each others throats in the movie. However, the improvisation showed through a lot, making the film seem all over the place and messy.
There were a few things that were left unanswered, such as who brought on the attack and who were the suited men. However, those things are better to be left unanswered because it makes the film seem more real and a lot more terrifying. Other than that, I did have a huge problem with the director not explaining what the suited men were doing with children. It was a random topic brought into the film and it would have made the movie a lot more interesting if we saw where the scenario was going. It didn’t make sense and it seemed as though Gens didn’t really know what he was doing and decided to just leave it unanswered.
The moments leading up to the films end were very gut-wrenching and saddening. The audience gets to see the group as it completely unhinges and we see a character makes a fateful and tough decision. Following that though, the ending seemed very much done before and predictable.
I feel like the director was trying to make a deep statement about humanity and the selfishness that occurs when we are forced into poor situations. However, with several close-ups on the American flag and news clippings on 9/11, I felt like the message was more about Americans being violent, selfish monsters, especially after the 9/11 disaster.
Maybe I was the only one who took that from the film–I don’t know, maybe I am thinking too much into it. Either way, the movie got me thinking and had me questioning what I would do in a similar situation and that’s something movie’s rarely do these days.
Overall, The Divide is a film worth watching but it doesn’t bring too much new to the post-apocalyptic movie. The film is more of a study on the characters and their loss of humanity in the situation. It’s terrifying to see how much some of the characters change and even scarier to see the decisions that they are forced to make. The moments leading up to the ending were engrossing, however, the film’s final moments were pretty predictable.