'The Divide' Review: Dark, Depressing Dystopian Drama

Even by post-apocalyptic standards, the new thriller “The Divide” is pretty darn bleak.

They don’t make cheery nuclear war movies, but “The Divide” will make viewers wish the Big One came and took them out, quick.

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That’s not to dismiss “The Divide” as an irrelevant genre entry. French director Xavier Gens teases some strong performances out of his ensemble, drawing out the very worst in humanity along the way. Good thing genre fave Michael Biehn is on hand to overact in appropriate fashion as the one man holding this scraggly band of survivors together.

“The Divide” begins with a flash of light and chaos. We watch people in a city apartment complex scramble for safety as what appears to be a nuclear blast lights up the horizon. A group of fleet-footed types make their way into the building’s basement where they find a sizable stockpile of supplies.

Mickey the building’s super (Biehn) quickly establishes himself as the group’s leader. He owns the supplies, knows all the resources available in the basement and, frankly, is leadership material. He’s also wound pretty tightly, which makes everyone even more uncomfortable than they already feel.

The survivors don’t know what happened outside, but they assume the worst and hope that someone, some day, will come looking for them. But it turns out they aren’t alone, and that the longer they stay cooped up in relative safety, the greater the chance their baser instincts will rise to the surface.

“The Divide” isn’t interested in cause, just effect. We’re given snippets of information, but the spoon feeding is brief and interrupted. Some subplots start and disappear, but they leave an imprint and don’t detract from the suffering on screen.

Gens refuses to compromise on the film’s jet-black vision. Humans will devolve when cornered, and the transformations seen here are impressively dour. Milo Ventimiglia is particularly effective as a young man whose moral compass goes from north to south in dramatic fashion. And Rosanna Arquette shelves any semblance of glamour to play a mother reduced to a sexual husk.

The film’s plot holes start piling up like so many empty bean cans. Aren’t those dead bodies pretty ripe by now? And how does the electricity keep on flowing?

But “The Divide” can’t be bothered with such linear thought. It’s out to thoroughly depress viewers and remind us of the ugliest side of ourselves.