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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Divide (Blu-ray)
The Divide (Blu-ray)
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // April 17, 2012 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 5, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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Okay, so there's one scene in The Divide where Rosanna Arquette, clad in pretty much nothing but a duct-tape bra, is being violently pounded from behind by some Tauntaun-rider-lookin' guy. While he's slathering baked beans all over her back, Heroes' Milo Ventimiglia cheers the dude on behind a gas mask.

I know what you're thinking: finally! After all these years, a movie that really, truly speaks to me.

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Part of me thinks that suffering through the other two hours of The Divide was worth it just to be able to write an intro like that. The rest of me...uh, doesn't? I guess I'm supposed to get into the plot summary part of the deal before ranting, though, so let's mosey on over there. The Divide opens with nuclear warheads raining all over Manhattan. Mickey the Super (Michael Biehn) saw this whole thing coming, so he's already got himself a few paletts of baked beans in his bomb shelter downstairs. Before he can slam that oversized bank vault door shut, though, a bunch of his tenants (Milo Ventimiglia, Lauren German, Rosanna Arquette, and...other people) manage to flood their way in. Seeing as how the movie's tagline is "the lucky ones died in the blast", you probably don't need me to tell you that The Divide isn't two hours of pinochle and campfire songs. They're at each other's throats preeeeetty much from word one. Fear. Mistrust. Grabs for power. Sexual exploitation. Quickly dwindling water. Beans. Guns. Knives. Torture. Dismemberment. Murder. Revenge. The survivors can't claw their way out, but what's managed to get inside may be even worse than what awaits on the other side of that door. Duh-duh-dummmmmmmmmmmmm!

Pretty much nothing in The Divide works. Just about every last one of its characters are raging assholes who graduate to becoming ragier assholes, screaming the bulk of their dialogue and generally beating the shit out of each other for a couple hours straight. Lauren German and Ashton Holmes come off pretty well as the two characters you're supposed to
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like and sympathize with, but everyone else is just...excruciating to watch. They're so deliriously, cartoonishly over-the-top that they never threaten to resemble actual people. They're such unmistakeably artificial constructions that it's impossible to get caught up in their Lord of the Flies struggles for dominance and survival. There's not even the faintest glimmer of anything that'd spark desperately needed empathy. I generally just wanted most everyone on the bill to shut up and die already. I don't want to suffer through two hours of unredeemably shitty people doing unredeemably shitty things to one another. A more expected character arc would be watching likeable, well-rendered characters devolve...to have their humanity stripped away by what they're forced to endure in the name of survival. Instead, they start off as insufferable pricks and end up being more insufferable pricks. The Divide goes to great lengths to prevent you from emotionally engaging with most anyone or anything that hoves its way in front of the camera.

Xavier Gens (Frontier(s)) directs with an awkwardly heavy-handed touch. The visual artistry is often clumsy, from that ridiculous teary-eyed nuclear holocaust intro all the way to its frantically quick-cutting Requiem for a Dream baked bean montages. I guess the idea behind improvising...I don't know, everything was to make The Divide seem that much more natural and convincingly horrific, but instead the dialogue generally comes across as stilted and tin-eared. The last thing The Divide needed was the extended cut offered here; the movie's oppressively overlong and repetitive. A couple of seemingly significant subplots never go anywhere. There's a hell of a lot of violence, although it rarely makes anywhere near as much of an impact as The Divide has convinced itself that it is. A lot of it's off-camera too, so sorry, gorehounds. The cranked-to-11 performances are uniformly grating. The man's-inhumanity-to-man routine leans on brutality, misogyny, and racism too awkwardly stapled-on and absurdly over-the-top to resonate. Ugh. I'd rather march outside right into a nuclear winter than be locked inside with The Divide for another minute. Skip It.

The digital photography behind The Divide really doesn't hold up under the limited light generally offered here. Detail and clarity are fine but not particularly impressive, and that's more than I can say for
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the frequently underwhelming contrast. The Divide's palette is restricted solely to ashen grays and dingy browns, and that quickly gets to be a stale sight. Kudos to Anchor Bay for doing what they could with this presentation, lavishing it with a dazzlingly high bitrate, and that definitely helps render all that CCD noise or whatever. Definitely a leg up over the standard definition presentation served up on the DVD elsewhere in the set, but demo material it's not so much.

The Divide's AVC encode stretches its legs across both layers of this BD-50 disc. The movie's letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 or so.

Again, Anchor Bay went all out as far as the presentation goes, serving up The Divide with 24-bit, 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio, although...well, again, the sexiest technical specs only go so far depending on what gets fed in there in the first place. Seeing as how The Divide opens with a nuclear holocaust and everything, it kind of goes without saying that the surrounds are frantic and that the subwoofer summons a hellish amount of bass. That continues for a little while as the building around them starts to crumble into ruin, but after that...? Aside from the music, I have to admit that bass response and the use of the surrounds pretty much stopped registering for me. Maybe I was too numbed by a movie I hated, hated, hated that intensely, but it felt like pretty much everything after a while was rooted across the front mains, with only the score making any meaningful impression otherwise. That's a shame because The Divide draws deeply on claustrophobia to try to evoke a certain sense of tone or mood, and that could've been complemented by a heavily atmospheric use of the rear channels. Oh well. At least the movie's dialogue comes through cleanly and clearly, and there not surprisingly isn't anything in the way of dropouts, unwelcome background noise, or any of the other usual suspects. I probably could've just said "unremarkable" and gotten most of that across.

Also included are a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a monaural Spanish dub. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.

  • Audio Commentary: Director Xavier Gens is joined by actors Michael Biehn, Michael Eklund, and Milo Ventimiglia for The Divide's commentary track. The whole thing's kind of self-congratulatory
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    and in awe of itself, which may be cool if you really like The Divide but is sort of insufferable if you loathe the movie anywhere near as much as I do. At least it's propelled by a quippy energy that makes for a decent listen. Along with pointing out how much fun they had making the flick -- which seems at odds with a lot of the interviews floating around, but whatever -- the four of 'em delve into how The Divide was shot in sequence and how it was so heavily improvised that, by the end, it didn't resemble the shooting script at all. Among the highlights are a miscommunication on the set about what "come on her" means, Ventimiglia fucking up his eyes so badly with bloodshot lenses that he didn't need to fake it with contacts anymore, and pointing out some erectile dysfunction in one key sequence that I didn't pick up on at all. But yeah, the commentary didn't change my mind about hating The Divide, and I wasn't really looking to spend a couple extra hours with it.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Yup. High-def theatrical trailer.

...aaaaaaand that's it. Well, unless you count the anamorphic widescreen DVD that's tucked in the case alongside the Blu-ray disc, at least. There's mention of a making-of featurette in the commentary, but for whatever reason, that didn't find its way on this shiny five-inch disc.

The Final Word
Wait, do "ack" or "ugh" count as a final word? No? How about "Skip It"?

I Snapped a Couple Screengrabs Too Many
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