Movie ramblings: The Divide

The second movie I watched today was The Divide ( a post-apocalyptic thriller that follows a group of New York City residents who take refuge from a totally unexplained nuclear attack on the city in the basement of their building.

My conclusion: nicely made and acted but it would be really nice to watch an end of the world movie that didn’t involve people turning into murdering, raping sadists at the first sign of civilisation going to pot.

This is your usual post-apocalypse Lord of the Flies type stuff.  Not quite as gritty as Threads but only because it focuses more on story than the more documentary-like Threads but it is definitely as bleak, especially at the end.  It is also not quite as bonkers as Doomsday, although it does share some elements such as cross dressing and dismemberment.

I really like the way that the film is shot almost entirely in the basement of the building (which fortuitously is supplied with a conspiracy nut and associated stockpiles of food, fuel and water) and the brief sections shot outside this area really feel like an unnecessary distraction from the rest of the film.  Unfortunately there are plenty of stories of people going mad in isolation and doing unpleasant things to each other and this one isn’t anything special.  It almost feels like it is ticking boxes;

  • people trying to get out, putting everyone in danger and having to be restrained by their friends – check
  • arguments over food and water rationing leading to fights, deaths, hoarding and trading sex for preferential treatment – check
  • paranoia that some people are keeping supplies to themselves – check
  • finding out that they are and then torturing them into giving up their stash – check
  • having to get rid of the dead bodies by chopping them up and then going a bit mad like in Shallow Grave – check
  • (almost) all of the men turning into depraved sexual sadists and porking everything they can get their hands on, even each other – check
  • some kind of faceless government agency that ignores the human needs of survivors and kills anyone who gets in their way – check

Whilst the plot and the events of the film are pretty standard and can be found in dozens of similar movies, the direction and acting, along with the good use of the set make the tension and the drama seem more real and certainly raise the film above the average.

Now for things that I didn’t like (Warning: spoilers)

At the beginning one of the main characters is watching the attack out of the window.  She sees a nuclear explosion go off and sees the mushroom cloud.  At that distance she probably would have been killed by the radiation or shockwave and certainly didn’t have time to run several flights downstairs to the basement before the building collapsed, which is of course exactly what she did do.  In fact, you can see the shockwave toppling buildings a couple of blocks away from her as she starts to run!  As they try to leave the building by the main doors, another flash, presumably from a much nearer explosion is seen through the windows and indeed seems to kill a lot of the people in front of them.  In my opinion this film did not need that kind of over the top effect to enhance the tension and actually would have been a lot better without it.

Once the group have been stuck for a while in the basement, their refuge is invaded by a bunch of goons wearing armoured NBC suits and carrying stupidly large guns.  Without saying a word, they bust in, steal a small girl, beat some people up and leave again.  Inexplicably leaving the door open on their way out.  Several of them stay behind and are somehow overpowered by some civilians armed with nothing more than a craft knife and a lump of wood.  Despite the fact that 3 of their number have been killed off, no one comes back to find out what happened to them or to finish off these obviously hostile and dangerous people.

A short while later (it is pretty hard to tell whether hours, days or weeks have passed between any particular scene) one of the survivors puts on one of the suits, takes a gun and goes outside.  He wanders round what looks like a sterile military quarantine installation for a while and discovers some mysterious things. When he is questioned by someone, he freaks out, shoots a bunch of people, drops the gun and legs it back to the basement.  Again instead of finishing these people off or even talking to them at all the mysterious army people just weld the door shut and leave them there without even checking if there are other ways out (spoiler: there are but we don’t find out until the end).  In my opinion, the whole mysterious shadowy organisation is as irrelevant and distracting as the blockbuster style explosions at the beginning.  The film would have been better off without it.

So the rest of the film is pretty standard fayre.  It’s nice that you don’t really get anyone’s full story, you just get bits from snatches of conversation or photographs or the occasional hallucination.  The predictable slide to violence, murder, rape sadism and cross dressing(?) happens reasonably predictably.  People get killed off until there is just a core left over and then there is a standoff where most of those kill each other until in the end only one escapes.

So to my final point that annoyed me.  The last sadist remaining alive realises the game is up and decides to kill himself by dowsing himself in burning petrol from a lamp.  Inexplicably this sets fire to the solid concrete walls and floor of the basement and spreads quickly throughout the basement killing the only 2 remaining men and allowing the only remaining woman to escape.  There really wasn’t any reason for this and the ending would have been a lot better if she had just locked them in to starve to death rather than to burn to death.  Or the last sadist could have sprayed the other 2 with petrol as well.

Anyway, my conclusion if anyone is still reading, it is nicely made and well acted but it would be really nice to watch an end of the world movie that didn’t involve people turning into murdering, raping sadists at the first sign of civilisation going to pot.


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