Open film. It's post-9/11 New York City. A woman looks outside her apartment building from the stairwell. Through her eyes, we see fireballs in the sky, raining down. On impact, we see mushroom clouds form. The residents look to flee, but have nowhere to go; those attempting escape outside greeting a quicker demise. A few head downstairs, deeper, as the building's superintendent tries to seal himself into the fallout shelter. Nine people total make it inside the room before the hatch is closed, with little in terms of supplies, and nothing in regards to information. Now, they wait.
'The Divide' is sure to divide its audience, for one simple reason: this is one seriously ugly film. It takes a lot for me to say that, as I often dive headfirst gleefully into the movies that aim to repulse their respective audiences, but as this two hour film went along its not-so-merry path, my appreciation for the attention to detail and harsh truthfulness fell to the wayside. As the cruelty and unforgivingness of this movie piled on and on, it got to be too damn much, at least for my tastes. This descent into madness is sure to make more than a few viewers to turn off their players at some point, the ending yet unseen, the path to get there too treacherous, and it isn't shameful to abandon this particular quest. Writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean truly do want anyone sitting down to their movie to realize, much like the tag line, the lucky ones died in the blast.
This journey of film minimalism (a set amount of actors, one set where almost 99 percent of the film takes place) is a grueling one. Due to the complex, sickening attention to bringing radiation decay to our eyes, this movie was shot sequentially. As such, there's no continuity issues with bloody coughs, bloodshot eyes, heavy rings beneath said blood-splotched peepers, hair that fell out in patches and clumps, skin peels, or dried out lips, let alone other skin rot or clothing tattering. This descent into madness is impossible to miss, and it's just the physical manifestation of the radiation, malnourishment, and other illness breeding down below. The damage being done to the mental state of those few who survived...well, that is the lemon juice being poured on every open wound you've ever had. The way these strangers delve into a societal abyss in such a short time is what makes 'The Divide' a nasty film experience.
Early on, it's apparent that the building's super (Michael Biehn) is the man holding all the cards, as the former firefighter whose life was changed in the last attack on New York has prepared for this very day. It's the strangers who he unwillingly is hosting that create the problem. As the eight lucky survivors do their best to abide by the rules set in place by the man in charge, it becomes obvious that not only is there something else going on, but that some may be looking to turn the tables. A class battle erupts in a group of people who should be thankful they're not ashes, and even through that, there are cultural and sexual tensions running wild, as the group tears itself apart.
The cast is full of recognizable faces (including Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney B. Vance, Rosanna Arquette, Ashton Holmes, and Lauren German), though none of them should be proud of this credit. They play the parts too damn well. Ventimiglia's role in particular turns into one of the most stomach-turning characters in some time, while Arquette's poorly written damsel in distress turns into a character who may well set any feminist movement back a good ten years. There comes a point when it's hard to discern characters from the actors playing them, which is normally a good thing, but in a film about this kind of descent into madness...that may not necessarily be praiseworthy.
'The Divide' is definitely a film that viewers will want to rent before buying, because I cannot see where the urge to replay this carnage could possibly lie. This film moves at such a methodically slow pace, and with the content being wall to wall insanity, it's easy to be worn down and beaten up by what is shown on screen. It's a film experience, yes, one that makes you pray to goodness you're never in a similar spot, but this is a film where the entertainment value just dips to the point of being infinitesimal. It's a grueling, nightmarish movie, and that may be praise in some circles, but no amount of preparation could have had me ready for this one.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'The Divide' comes to Blu-ray on a Region A locked BD50 disc, packaged alongside a DVD version of the film, both in an unrated cut of the movie. The discs both have text on their respective artwork saying the film is also available in an R rated version, though there is no sign of any such release on home video. I think the studio just poorly worded the usual "the content on this release varies from the R-rated version of the film" boilerplate.
'The Divide' won't divide its audience on its appearance, with this Blu-ray release from Anchor Bay presenting the film in a very positive light. This film features a nice heavy grit that isn't once interrupted or digitally tampered with, and it doesn't deter the high definition of this release one bit. Darker shots dull colors out, but moments in appropriate lighting reveal natural, bold, realistic colors and atmosphere. Crushing isn't an issue, despite a number of darker scenes, and detail levels, particularly those of facial features, remain solid throughout this feature. There are moments where movement creates a little bit of blurring, and a couple of shots around the midpoint with an odd yellow-ish filter that have floating textures and odd motion blurring, but for the most part, this film looks fantastic, if you're into that dreary, nasty aesthetic.
7.1 owners, you have another disc to play with. 'The Divide' is given a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track, and while it is far from the most powerful thing out there, it definitely has the capability of keeping the viewer engaged...or, should I say, right down in the middle of the fallout shelter, where all the shit is going down. The film opens with a bang, visually...but it's not exactly banging, as the nuke storm that rains over NYC has very little in terms of bass. We're talking about buildings disintegrating in the very, very near distance, or even right on top of you, collapsing over the shelter, yet there's no tremendous thud, like the tactical nukes in 'The Crazies' or 'Postal' bring with the greatest of ease.
The dialogue for the film, all screaming two hours of it, comes from the front channels. There really aren't any localized words of any kind, nor are there movement effects. What makes this disc worth a listen is the sheer amount of random activity mixed throughout the room. Clanging, banging, thumping. It's one of the least precision discs you'll ever hear, it's so random...and that's not exactly a compliment or criticism. It just is. Bass levels don't overpower (I've fallen down and created bigger thumps), but there are long stretches with a nice prolonged thud to them, for ambient effect. This track is good, but flawed, as it could have been a real winner. As is, it's passing and interesting.
This set includes a DVD copy of the film.
'The Divide' isn't a bad film. It's not. It's a horribly harsh, tough, mean spirited film, though, and can easily turn off its audience with how far it goes. In a world where the last year or so has seen full of people stitched together creating a single digestive track or forced into snuff incest porn on film, it's amazing that this film is at times more offensive. This is a rough, rough ride, folks. Rough. The Blu-ray release is solid, though the supplement package is a little light. Due to the content of the movie, I'd advise a rental before a purchase, just anything to prevent a blind buy. This is not a film that has a lot of replay value, and if you don't trust me, just google "The Divide progression." It's like faces of meth, only not funny.