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New Release Review - The Divide

Directed by: Xavier Gens
Starring: Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney B. Vance, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Eklund

Following a nuclear attack on New York, a group of survivors hole up in the basement of their apartment block. Tensions run high and eventually they give in to the most primal instincts of humanity.
Over the last few years, French cinema has become synonymous with a new brand of extreme nihilism. I'm fine with this if there's a point to it all but the recent Gallic output has just been nastiness for the sake of it. To say I'm not a fan is an understatement, only "Martyrs" had anything worthwhile to say but despite having one of the best endings you'll ever see, the preceding ninety minutes were painful to get through.
Against all odds, Gens has taken this new French extremism across the Atlantic. The result is one of the bleakest movies ever made in the United States, and certainly one of the most anti-American. If the French hate the U.S as much as Americans think, they'll be cheering in cinemas from Paris to Marseille as Gens delivers underhanded punches to the fabric of American society. 
The biggest name here is Biehn, barely aged a day in the thirty years since "Terminator". In a piece of writing purely designed to infuriate middle America, he's a former New York firefighter who, it's implied, may have lost his wife on September 11th. He's also a racist homophobe who hides food and water from the other survivors. His secret stash is kept in a panic room whose door is concealed by a giant American flag. Could you get a more blunt metaphor?
The characters degradation, both physical and moral, isn't even gradual. At roughly the halfway point, they suddenly take on an emaciated look, all except German, who obviously has a contract insisting she remain glamorous throughout. Arquette bizarrely turns into a slut and Eklund becomes a grotesque clone of Klaus Kinski's Nosferatu.
Trying to make up for Gens lack of creativity are two of his countrymen, cinematographer Laurent Bares and composer Jean-Pierre Taieb. Their work is stellar and far too good for this film. The widescreen photography is very reminiscent of John Carpenter, a hero to many French film-makers, and to this writer.
Call me naive but I don't buy this idea that in times of horror humans resort to savagery, we didn't make it this far on our planet by not working together. For better or worse we're essentially pack animals. Despite Gens opinion, if I had to be  stuck in this scenario I'd much rather face it with Americans than Europeans.
4/10

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