As a filmmaker, the possible potential of director Xavier Gens has been a source of much discussion. His first feature "Frontier(s)" was a visceral and controversial addition to the slasher genre, not to mention an impressive first film. His next project "Hitman" also had all the Gens signature visuals, but proved to be a classic case of all style, little substance. (Although I always sensed heavy studio interference was the creative downfall on that one!) But with the arrival of his third outing "The Divide," Gens finally quells all whispers of his probable cinematic prowess and successfully creates one grim, dark, brooding and utterly entrancing pictures that boldly and brutally deals with the demise of the human race like we’ve never seen before.
It’s New York City and a nuclear bomb has just gone off. Some tenants in a local high rise apartment see the spectacle outside the windows and appropriately try to run for safety. But with the streets crowded with many people in a panic, a group of tenants decide to head for the one place they feel may be a safe haven – the basement. Hitting the hard door just before building superintendent Mickey has a chance to shut it tight for good, eight strangers are able to take refuge in the underground shelter and wait to see what their fate will bring.
There is so many riveting story turns here that’s it’s almost impossible to give a short description (plus giving away anything is a pure cinematic sin!), but thankfully "The Divide" never feels long. Gens, in what is described as the 'Director’s Cut,' works without any apparent boundaries or censorship and as a result "The Divide" proves to be the filmmakers most audacious work to date. Finally coming into his own with a movie that takes breath away for every second of the whopping one hundred and ten minute running time (not to mention the flawless use of a small space!), Gens feels right at home amidst the demonic and degraded that make up "The Divide’s" motley crew.
And everyone trapped in "The Divide" is susceptible to the darkness, as the panicked group transforms from curious and scared to detached and amoral. Plus under Gens direction not only is every character distinctive, layered and integral, but also cast perfectly. Featuring Michael 'Kyle Reese' Biehn (fabulous as tormented super Mickey and reminds one of his equally arresting work in The Abyss!), Milo “Heroes” Ventimiglia (his best performance yet!), Courtney B. Vance, Rosanna Arquette (in full raw character mode – jaw dropping stuff!) and especially Laura German (the only holdout of human hope), there is a real and palpable emotional turmoil going on within this dramatic horror film of sorts. But Gens doesn't let the situation or story get the better of his characters, using them instead as poignant individual bullet points to show just how desperate people will become when all hope becomes lost. (Think a twisted "Lord of the Flies" - but for adults!)
Not for the squeamish, Gens’ film is not going to appeal to everyone, but for those who love pulling back the Oz curtain and expose the honesty of the wizard, the daring of "The Divide" does not disappoint. Told with an in your face, matter of fact approach, there’s something so disturbingly real about the film that it’s impossible to ignore the inevitable – "The Divide" is not only Gens best work, but the first five-star film of 2012.
"THE DIVIDE" HITS SELECT THEATERS JAN. 13 FROM ANCHOR BAY FILMS.