Director: Xavier Gens
Stars: Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia
Will divide audiences
Wow this man can direct! Xavier Gens, I am of course talking about who had a mild, if forgettable beginning with the mediocre Hit-man, but then went on to direct (in my opinion) one of the greatest modern horror films ever made in Frontier(s). Obviously a lot of people would disagree with me, so I would imagine that a lot of people would be divided (pun absolutely intended) by Xavier’s next horror film. The Divide promises a lot from its visceral opening as we watch New York burn to the ground through the eyes of people in an apartment building. The directing is quite beautiful in this section (and is throughout) with a fantastic sweeping shot down the staircase which almost creates an order out of the panic. Then we find a bunch of people locked in an aggressive man’s Big Brother-styled basement (you know the one with Paula Hamilton). Then the titles run with an incredibly emotive score placed over it. I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about the score more because it blew me away, it immediately sets the depressing tone and I felt almost quite moved by it. From then on I knew that this film was going to produce good things, and I don’t think that I was wrong!
The first act is pretty involving as we get to know the characters, all of whom don’t seem to be that likable, however this changes as the film progresses. I think The Divide is the type of film that would get better with more views as you’d get to know the characters a bit better. I found myself confused in some parts because some people looked very similar and/or acted similar. By the end of it it’s hard to tell anyone apart, but I think that that is very purposeful and illustrates the film’s point perfectly. There are some dashes of thrilling action when some space men come in and don’t behave too politely. We immediately get to see who the stronger characters are and we learn quite a lot about them through their actions. There’s also some wonderful editing with that brilliant score being played over, most notably when the camera tracks past walls and we see all the characters. It’s superbly done and memorable.
Unfortunately things start to take a slower place in the second act. Whilst the directing is still good, it all gets a bit talky without conveying much about the narrative or characters. Don’t get me wrong, there are splashes of involving lunacy and we do get to spend more time getting to know everyone, but some scenes did tend to drag, similarly like in The Mist, although I suppose film’s which are just set in one location are going to drag slightly in places. Fortunately the third act more than makes up for it, producing some of the most intense scenes that could only exist in French cinema. There’s also been some complaints about characters making stupid decisions, but you’ve got to remember that these people are completely starved and parched and of course aren’t going to as on the ball as you and I (well maybe not me).
The third act is what prevents The Divide from sinking to an 8/10 to a 9/10. It becomes incredibly involving, and almost reminiscent of the third act of Frontier(s) (which is a good thing in my book). There was a moment when I realised that I no longer felt like I was watching a film, but was actually inside the basement with them. It’s so involving and delivers a choking atmosphere that you’re not likely to soon forget. It’s so interesting to watch the characters completely psychologically deteriorate into psychotic dictators. It becomes quite frightening in some places! There were some moments, particularly towards the end, where I was on the edge of my seat, completely gripped. There are some very absorbing moments and some great characters who you end up rooting for.
The Divide also doesn’t hold back any punches. There are some rather sick ideas explored, but all with good reason. Everyone gives a brilliant performance, which all builds up to an intensely moving and emotionally-charged finale. By the time it was finished I was in awe in what I just watched. It’s depressing, bleak but brilliant and has got me excited to see what Xavier can produce next! The ending is beautifully shot and still conveys that atmosphere of hopelessness, which is never lost. It’s an incredibly interesting and intricate psychological examination of humanity, whilst also being emotional, intense and thrilling. The ending was incredibly powerful, and was like a punch to the face. It has a haunting effect that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled. It’s bleak but brilliant.