Friday, 2 September 2011



I guess it's always dangerous beginning your movie with a nuclear apocalypse and the sudden violent destruction of Western civilisation: you run the risk of peaking too early dramatically. Xavier Gans' film opens with the bombs going off and the city being obliterated - where do you go from there? It's a bit like Face/Off which has an opening action sequence that most directors would be happy to have as the climax of the film, but Woo puts it in the opening reels (although he still manages to pump the excitement later on).

The Divide isn't concerned with Armageddon itself, though - that's literally something that happens outside. Instead the film focuses on the handful of residents of an apartment block who manage to get into the basement before the building collapses on their head. Inevitably, all that anger, fear and aggression in a confined space with no immediate escape route leads to higher tension and factions forming as to who's in charge, how long the rations will last, how long they need to stay down there. And how long before they turn on each other and kill each other to further their own prospects for survival? Or, how long before they just go insane?

It's a beautifully shot and lit film - all but a few minutes of the film take place in the extensive basement and storage space of a large apartment block - and it's a compelling and sometimes uncomfortable picture of just how far people will go under . It's got a strong cast: Michael Biehn, Rosanna Arquette, Courtney B Vance and an almost theatrical feel to it - could it be adapted for the stage? The principal flaw is that it does frequently descend into scenes of unlikeable alpha males squaring off by bellowing obscenities at each other in a confined space, and after a while that's neither entertaining nor dramatically interesting. And it is too long at 110 minutes in the company of increasingly unpleasant individuals. Nice ending though.


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