Directed by: Xavier Gens
Written by: Karl Mueller, Eron Sheean
Starring: Michael Biehn, Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia, Michael Eklund, Rosanna Arquette
As New York City is annihilated above them, a group of tenants survive by taking shelter in the basement of their apartment building only to face the dangers of interpersonal conflicts, radiation poisoning, and an unknown threat from the outside.
The Divide combines two of my favourite scenarios; the apocalypse and the pressure cooker. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as watching a diverse group of people try to keep their shit together during a high stress situation, and it doesn’t get more dire than the End of Civilization. Unfortunately, The Divide adds yet another ingredient into the mix: improvisation.
The actors seem to have entered The Divide without exchanging notes, as nearly every one of them is indistinguishable from the others in their bland awfulness. The majority of the running time is spent in the company of a group of mopey losers lounging around eating endless
cans of beans. When something significant does happen to stir them out of their stupor, it’s only temporary and doesn’t seem to have any lasting effect. And just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, when the action finally revs up the characters react in ways that are wholly inconsistent with everything that has come before.
On my way home from the screening I found myself thinking about another suspense film that was based largely on improvised performances: The Blair Witch Project. That movie succeeded where The Divide failed by creating a narrative thread throughout, giving the actors something to react against instead of simply leaving it up to them to create conflict.
That’s not to say that The Divide is a complete waste. There are a few visually breathtaking set pieces scattered about, and occasionally the improvisation does pay off with some truly revelatory character vignettes. Further, despite my distaste for the film, I would still recommend The Divide based almost entirely upon the performance of Michael Biehn as Mickey, the superintendent who lives in the shelter.
While so many genre actors decline in their abilities over the years, Biehn is currently at the top of his game, making watchable every direct-to-DVD piece of shit he appears in. One day Hollywood is going to get wise and cast him in something worthy of his incendiary talents. Unfortunately, The Divide is not that vehicle. — Wintle