FILM: The Divide

A nuclear blast is destroying a city while a woman watches blankly. Suddenly we’re plunged into a state of chaos as a crowd of people run down the staircase of an apartment building, the camera whipping around frantically, an entire visual effects department blasting us with fire and rubble and approximately 20 actors are reduced to a faceless crowd. This is The Divide. The film throws flashy effects and camera swoops into an utter void of interesting characters while blankness is mistaken for depth.

Plot-wise a group of mostly strangers take refuge in the fallout shelter of an apartment building after a nuclear blast. The bunker was built by the secretive superintendent of the building who takes it on himself to ration out the food and the rest of the survivors soon stop trusting him. Trouble is, none of these people are worth caring about. Everyone in this movie is a cocky asshole, pathetically weak, or a blank shell that maybe we’re supposed to identify with as a vessel for the audience, but you know, it doesn’t really work like that. Then there’s also the token African American with literally no character whatsoever who exists to state obvious things and help out the white characters. To the movie’s credit, he’s the second person to be killed off, not the first.

At first the movie gives us the classic “even-though-these-people-survived-a-nuclear-explosion-and-have-been-living-off-beans-for-days-their-makeup-is-still-perfect” look while said survivors behave in ways that are tightly dictated by the one or two traits that solely define them. And it sucks. But then the plot keeps moving and things get worse and worse and I’ve got to say I was impressed. This movie goes to an extremely dark place and just gets darker. Bad things happen, worse things happen, the boring people become bad and the bad people prosper until the whole thing finally ends on easily the bleakest note I’ve seen all year. But eh, not in a really good way. This isn’t a devastating dark ending, or even a cerebral dark ending. It’s the logical conclusion of a movie that viewed human beings as things that CGI could happen to.

The Divide open in select theaters January 13, 2012. 

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