I have a spreadsheet that contains everything Michael Eklund has acted in and my goal is to watch all of it and blog about it along the way. There will be spoilers.
Survivors of a nuclear attack are grouped together for days in the basement of their apartment building, where fear and dwindling supplies wear away at their dynamic.
This movie is not for kids and not for a lot of adults. It’s dirty, disgusting in parts (there are moments of sexual assault) and will stick with you for days after you finish watching it. That said, I love apocalyptic movies and movies dealing with the idea of the effects of nuclear war. This one does a good job filling that genre. If you’ve seen the movie Threads this movie has some of those gut-wrenching moments that you reflect on some time after. (Threads trailer) The only difference is this movie doesn’t have the documentary feel that Threads does, replacing it with a slow-burn thriller beginning with the nuclear bomb detonating.
The movie centers around the slow deterioration of a group of nine people trying to survive inside a bomb shelter in the basement of their apartment building. Let me be clear though, this isn’t the Walking Dead, that show seems downright clean compared to this movie. The Walking Dead has hope, the Divide takes that away with the kidnapping of the only child in the group early on.
To quote the Gizmodo review: “at its heart The Divide isn’t about survivalists skills, it’s a bleak character study about the darkness inside everyone.” A character study that is full of blood, fecal matter, dirt and filth. As the movie was shot chronologically with the crew being placed on a diet by a nutritionist, you see the actors change as their characters do. Eklund’s Bobby goes from a slightly skiddish, snarky bad boy looking out for his friend Josh and his friend’s brother Adrien to a bald, wasting, sex crazed maniac who would look at home in a Silent Hill game. It took me awhile to figure out what the atmosphere reminded me of and that was it, Silent Hill with it’s emphasis of dirt and blood and bold cinematography choices. Oh, and monsters…
Between the radiation that gets in and the lack of proper nutrition Eklund’s character quickly becomes a monster.
At the height of bleakness he’s scary, rocking a shaved head (thanks to the radiation their hair starts to fall out) and hollow cheeks. He looks… well the best description I could think of was the light has gone out in his eyes and replaced with a god complex. He’ll do whatever he wants, to whomever he wants and he’ll consume what he likes. As mentioned at the top of this blog post there are moments of sexual assault in this movie, just as another warning.
Bobby’s interactions comes across as primitive, a type of lizard brain energy that drives Bobby to take and take and take. Take the alcohol, take the food, take the weapons, take sex from one of the female characters, then from whomever he wants to take it from.
The progression from normal to this wasted state was enough to make me cringe. It isn’t Michael’s fault, his performance is scarily good, it’s how far the character of Bobby deteriorates. Then his performance amps it even more. He looks human-ish, but he’s lost his humanity after being stuck down in this bomb shelter for who knows how long. We are left in the dark about how long they’re down there with no clocks and one broken watch, which makes the transformation even as slow as it is on screen at times that much more horrific. What if it’s only been a month? Can people fall apart that much in a month without sunlight and cooped up in a bunker? The questions stuck with me after the movie was over.
I almost turned the movie off at the head shaving scene, not because it’s poorly acted or not well-produced, but because I didn’t want to know how much further he could go. I didn’t want to see the depths of the darkness in the character. I found myself shaking my head at some of the characters choices as though I was watching the news or reading true crime. The performance made too much sense and looked too real.
This scene was done in one take. Bye bye hair.
There were issues with the script, perhaps made better or worse by the improvisation I read went on during the shoot. The dialogue is awkward at first and soon smooths out about a quarter of the way through. The unspoken is by far more powerful than the spoken. Bobby’s death stuck with me too, tinned goods just became a little more dangerous. I also have a big issue with deaths on screen that involve throats being cut.
If I’m honest, it’ll be awhile before I watch The Divide again, but it has gotten into my head so maybe I won’t need to. I hope if you choose to watch it you enjoy the performances and aren’t too bothered by the subject matter.