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rochefort [Film Festival 03.14.11] post apocalyptic movie review scifi horror thriller drama

Year: 2011
Directors: Xavier Gens
Writers: Karl Mueller / Eron Sheean
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 9 out of 10

In the opening minutes of the latest film by Xavier Gens, missiles hit the ground in New York, prompting mass panic and a gripping riot scene that culminates with Mickey (Michael Biehn) slamming the door of his personal fallout shelter, shutting himself inside along with a small handful of additional survivors that include Lauren German's and Ivan Gonzalez's estranged couple and half-brothers Milo Ventimiglia and Ashton Holmes. As the days pass, the group contends with mutual distrust, paranoia, and the very real possibility that no one is coming to their aid, which in turn sets them on a rapid decline into dementia and savagery.

Be warned: Gens' mode here is most definitely not that of "Hitman", the video game adaptation he made under intense studio scrutiny. This is the Gens' of "Frontiere(s)", the psychedelically brutal horror film that plays like a Gallic "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" with Nazis, and the one that placed him firmly among the ranks of the new French horror vanguard alongside the likes of Alexandre Aja and Pascal Laugier. And as much as I loved "Frontiere(s)", "The Divide" tops it in every way; bleaker, more brutal and intense, and disconcertingly plausible.

Set predominantly in the shelter, the chronologically-shot story follows the group of survivors as they come to grips with the unenviable realization that, despite the fact that they managed to elude the immediate effects of the blast, they may not have enough supplies to wait out the radiation contamination. Add to that a general dislike for each other coupled with major doubts as to whether or not Mickey is being honest about the ration supply, and the situation reaches critical mass fairly quickly. And that's just the first fifteen minutes.

A post-apocalyptic "Lord of the Flies", this is a claustrophobic character study, through and through, and the entire cast is put through paces that are often hard to watch. Michael Biehn gives one of the best performances of his career (perhaps even the best) as the building's super, a man we're never quite sure is acting in the group's best interests or his own. Milo Ventimiglia does particularly eye-opening work, and he Michael Eklund commit to their (frequently improv'ed) roles as a pair of jock hipsters who metamorphose into something very different with absolute fearlessness. And then there's Courtney B. Vance, world weary, seemingly stoic, possibly vicious, and Rosanna Arquette, playing a single mother who is forced to face an almost incomprehensible reality. Superb work all around, the performances so good it's easy to imagine that each actor came to set with an axe to grind and ten things to prove. Gens and writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean wisely keep the backstories and "fireside chats" to an absolute minimum, as if they realized in the editing room that the characters' predicament already warrants enough sympathy without pouring on the sentimentality.

Films such as "Threads", "When the Wind Blows", and "The Day After" presented some of the most plausible, dour and unflinching looks at what life on earth would be like for the survivors of a nuclear blast, and "The Divide" is cut from similar cloth. But its blood-drenced depiction of the worst-case lifeboat scenario is by far one of the most visceral to date, and certain scenes and images will doubtlessly linger in the mind. The bleakness on hand may not be for everybody, especially when one remembers that the threat of nuclear annihilation, while seldom the go-to cause of the apocalypse in a lot of PA of late, never went away and is just as possible today as it was when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. rattled their sabres at each other with regularity. Gens and company put perhaps the most Darwinian spin on the subject matter and, while it offers scant comfort for the future, it certainly makes for profoundly intense cinema.

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rbk (11 years ago) Reply

Good to hear. Love Gens and looking forward to this one...


Natasha Barton (11 years ago) Reply

Holy Bleeeep.


George M (11 years ago) Reply

Can't Wait To see this movie. I love Horror flicks


Anton (11 years ago) Reply

Can't freaking wait.


deborah wakeham (11 years ago) Reply

Juliette Hagopian is one of the hardest working women in show biz. congrats for all her hard work, can't wait to see this film.


Aladdin Sarsippius (11 years ago) Reply

I'll buy this for a dollar!


Newt Clements (11 years ago) Reply

I cannot WAIT for this film!

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