The Divide Review
The FilmThere are many reasons for making a movie. Some people just want to know that they can (Welles), some people realise that their existing artform is less open to a broad audience (Banksy) and some people just want to entertain you and earn some money. Some though, want to say something and to make you consider life through their eyes. After now watching all three of his released features, I have no idea why Xavier Gens makes movies. His first film, in terms of production, was the entertaining and thoughtful Frontier(s) - a white knuckle ride in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre tradition of balls to the wall horror with a political backdrop. He then made a video game adaptation so empty headed and pointless for his international paymasters that this sentence may not end as a righteous protest against.... it. Now he is back with The Divide, a post apocalyptic thriller with an American cast and American money.
So in terms of some of those better elements in his first film, the culture clashes, the subterranean setting and a basic bestial message about mankind, my hopes about The Divide were high. It even stars the wonderful Rosanna Arquette and pays its dues to Aliens and Terminator by casting Michael Biehn also. Unfortunately, the film itself lacks coherence, drive and any sense of message about the story it tells.It all begins well enough, as Lauren German witnesses a nuclear explosion across her city skyline and a mass exodus through a tower block finds her and eight others holed up in the building's bunker. There, the caretaker has prepared for the apocalypse and the group dig in despite their disputes, radiation sickness and human vultures to see if they can survive.
Starting positively and possessing some impressive visual design and cinematography, there is some good artistry on show in the film. Sadly, the basic requirement of a consistent, well composed screenplay is not present, and a rather badly directed ensemble fails to come together in terms of tone or performance. In fact, the camera seems so bored with what it sees that it barely rests at times or allows image to lead to image, resulting in a confusing story telling technique.Character development is entirely missing, and this means that the attempts to understand what happens to people under pressure or to make political or post 9-11 points are entirely lost as some cast members go from nerdy outsider to Travis Bickle in the blink of an eye. Rare successes in characterisation, Arquette's character for instance, are then crowded out of the picture by the perceived need to avoid boring the audience and provide outrage or shock instead.
Still, what was most annoying is that for all the hints of microcosm and the affecting points about survival of the strongest and misogyny, the film has no real convictions on which to hang its more effective moments. The Divide is not just inarticulate, badly directed, erratically acted and poorly paced, but it has no real mind behind why it exists and what it is trying to say to you or me, or even him. A few striking images, some displacing violence and a lot of unexplained dynamics do not a movie make - The Divide is just plain bad.
Tech SpecsThe Divide is offered by Momentum only on DVD in the UK with a region 2 locked, dual layer disc. In terms of special features, there is a short trailer for the film along with some for other Momentum product like Haywire and a rather dreadful Behind The Scenes featurette. The featurette is dominated by the cast, unfortunately its filled with the likes of Milo Ventimiglia telling you about their deep thoughts and great fun making the film and particularly laughable sections about how Gens' poor English really helped the film. Really!Shot digitally, the video quality is understandably not very film-like but straightforward enough without edge enhancement or obvious filtering. Contrast is decent and the effects shots stand out as very digital looking because, well, they are! This is detailed and decent enough but obviously HD releases are also available.
The lack of a choice of sound options is a shame and the sole 5.1 track is flawed, not through mastering, but through its actual mixing. Rears are over used at times and there is a lack of specificity in where voices and effects are coming from, and generally its rather over the top and lacking in atmosphere. This though is probably not the fault of Momentum but the film-makers. English subs are also available and pretty necessary with Ivan Gonzalez' enunciation.
SummaryA grave disappointment, a deadly disaster, an apocalypse of its own - yada yada, you get it. A bare DVD does a reasonable job for a weak movie.
3 out of 10
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