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Apocalypse Again

MOVIE REVIEW
The Divide (2011)

The-divide-michael-biehn
2011 SXSW Conferences & Festivals

"The Divide" plays to its strengths and doesn't chicken out of its logical conclusion; so as post-apocalyptic sci-fi downers go, it certainly has the courage of its throat-slitting, bone-snapping convictions. It also runs straight into the inherent nihilism problem. The idea that human beings are feral embittered creeps with morals and values that crumble under stress until "Lord of the Flies" looks like a nursery rhyme is cathartic, resonant and a path that has been worn smooth. It's a closed loop of narrative from which all surprise has drained.

Xavier Gens surely knows this, but also seems to have learnt after the glossy "Hitman" that it's a better bet for him to indulge his instinct for caustic gloom, since his shooting style can make misery glitter in the dark. So "The Divide" opens with a golden nuclear firestorm that leaves its small cast confined into a dimly lit fallout shelter and then twists the knife for a further 100 minutes. Apart from a brief excursion into a gleaming laboratory where sinister scientists do sinister things, it stays down in the bunker and watches humanity tear itself apart.

The tearing is visceral, grubby stuff; and the cast are game. Rosanna Arquette allows herself to be filmed in the least flattering light possible; Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund go convincingly off the deep end; and since there's a septic pit, someone inevitably ends up going into it. There are enough visual and verbal references to Sept. 11, 2001 and subsequent U.S. misadventures to pull the film properly into the 9/11 canon; they are hammered so strongly that the writers could be aiming to tread where video games have already ventured and treat the event purely for its aesthetic value. Whether that enhances or cheapens the film might depend on your mood. It's a visually strong slice of screen misanthropy and an unnecessary reminder that if a nuclear missile comes your way, the best bet is to stand under it.

THE DIVIDE

Opens on Jan. 13, 2012 in Manhattan.

Directed by Xavier Gens; written by Eron Sheean and Karl Mueller; music by Jean-Pierre Taieb; produced by Ross M. Dinerstein, Darryn Welch, Juliette Hagopian and Nathaniel Rollo; released by Anchor Bay Films. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Lauren German (Eva), Michael Biehn (Mickey), Milo Ventimiglia (Josh), Courtney B. Vance (Delvin), Iván González (Sam), Michael Eklund (Bobby), Abbey Thickson (Wendi), Ashton Holmes (Adrien) and Rosanna Arquette (Marilyn).

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