The Divide

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The Divide

But Uncle Mickey says we have to stay.
Why?
Because your face will melt off and your hair will fall out.

Um. Wow. Um. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts after watching this. It is very very rare when a film disturbs me, and this certainly did that. The violence is very graphic, but that’s not what creeped me out.

The Divide is a post apocalyptic. Nuclear missiles have hit New York and a group of people have taken shelter in their apartment building’s basement, which had conveniently been converted into a nuclear fallout shelter by the apartment caretaker, Mickey (Michael Biehn of Terminator fame). The group is composed of Mickey, a young couple, a mother and her child, a single man and a trio of young guys. The movie never explains where the attack came from, and Mickey, who is hinted to be a firefighter and 9/11 survivor, blames terrorist groups. The shelter is pretty damn spacious. There’s a large room, smaller rooms with doors, Mickey’s personal rooms and a large tiled room with a shower and a septic toilet.

They’re in the shelter for a while (maybe a few weeks?) when a bunch of soldier type guys in fancy biohazard suits bust in. Seriously, these suits make them look like astronauts. The young guys are attacked and one of them is shot. The group scatters into the other shelter areas. The soldiers seize the little girl, check her teeth, stick a needle in her and drop her in a body bag/box. They take off with her. Meanwhile, the group members are hiding in various places. The soldiers start looting (i.e. taking water) and presumably looking for the group members to either capture or kill. The group members instead manage to kill 2 of the solders and then they close the shelter door and lock it. The mother absolutely loses her shit. She just has a complete breakdown. It’s like the stress of the bombs and shelter was too much, but she was holding it in for her girl and now, her reason to live having been taken, she’s snapped.

The leader of the young guys, Josh (Milo Ventimiglia from Heroes), offers to go out into the world in one of the biohazard suits. When he walks out, it’s into a very surreal looking world. There are huge plastic wrapped tunnels leading from the fallout shelter door to various other places. It reminds me of the end of Resident Evil, with the white tunnels. One of these tunnels leads to a room with more soldiers, who are examining organs in jars and hair in tubs. Josh finds the little girl. She’s in some kind of weird cryogenic looking chamber. She has been shaved bald, her eyelids are taped shut and she has a tube in her mouth. Josh is then found out by a suspicious soldier. Josh manages to shoot a couple of them before running back to the shelter. He gets back in and the soldiers weld the door shut behind him. Josh thinks the girl is dead and tells her mother.

What follows is the complete and total breakdown of the group, mentally and eventually physically. It’s like every horrible possible aspect of humanity shows up to party. The degradation is most prevalent in the young guys. Josh and his buddy become absolutely terrifying. I’m actually scared and horrified at them. After the mother has her breakdown, she sort of comes back, but is so damaged that she believes that the only way to survive is to allow the young guys to sexually abuse her. It is so horrific to see her reduced to the status of a dog and her realization that she can’t get out of this situation turns her into a mindless zombie. The young guys, well, as they become sicker, they actually, in my mind, begin to LOOK like zombies. They shave their heads, their eyes are bloodshot and they are just visiting physical abuse on themselves. The middle young guy, Bobby, is doing okay, he seems like one of those players you’d see at a club in a fancy car picking up women, but then he has to cut up a dead body in the tiled room and stuff it down the septic toilet. You definitely see the change in him after that. He begins wearing a nightie around and putting makeup (badly) on. He’s just scary. It’s like something snapped in him and he has no humanity left. His attention span is like 10 seconds long and the physical wasting is as bad as the mental. Check out the change. Here he is at the start. And then this is him at the end. Freaky, hm?

I think though, the real lead in this is the female half of the couple, Eva. She retains her dignity and humanity. While everyone around her unravels (including her boyfriend), she stays calm. She tries to take care of the mother, of everyone. I think this need to protect and nurture ultimately keeps her sane. She is really quite good and you’d think that the quiet girl is unimportant, but you begin to root for her as she tries to keep everyone human. Though it didn’t seem so at first, everything in the story revolves around her and it is Eva who makes the ultimate decision in the end.

Very few films disturb me. The complete lack of emotion, or regard, of everything that makes us ‘civilized’ in this is not exactly upsetting, but enough to make you realize that in this situation, we’d probably all end up like this and that is really why we get upset watching it. This is why it’s a good movie. A perfect and imperfect representation of us at our worst. I don’t think I could watch it again for a while unless there were plenty of videos of cute kittens afterwards.

4 chocolate mousse cups out of 5.

I wrote an addendum to this regarding some questions that seem to have sprung up.

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  1. Pingback: The Day | dessertforlunch

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