A scene from The DivideEnd of the world pictures are a favourite of independent directors because they provide an opportunity to create a world contained in a limited space. This Toronto After Dark‘s apocalyptic film is also it’s red carpet event. The Divide stars Michael Biehn, Michael Eklund and Milo Ventimiglia, and is from French director Xavier Gens – all of whom were in attendance for the sold out screening.

A nuclear-sized explosion has destroyed the city. A small group of survivors – a mother and her young daughter; a couple drifting apart; two single, older men; and a group of three young men, including a pair of brothers – take shelter in the basement of an apartment building, which is slowly collapsing above them. Mickey (Biehn), the building superintendent, attempts to take charge of the situation and keep his guests in line. But with time and despair, civility erodes and people become animals. Eventually, Josh (Ventimiglia) and Bobby (Eklund) brutalize their way to positions of authority over the remaining “prisoners.” As conditions worsen and the self-appointed rulers become intolerable, the others ban together to knock them off their thrones.

Things are immediately tense in the confined, underground shelter and are only made more so by disagreements within the groups. The couple’s estrangement enhances their personal differences of opinion, while the older men butt heads about how to proceed. As options arise regarding escape or waiting for help, arguments break out about who should go and if a decision for one is a decision for all. Mutiny erupts when the group deems certain actions unfair, only to lead to even greater inequity. However, in the end, they are all stuck and they are all, in one way or another, alone.

Gens has filmed horrific personalities before – monsters in human skin. He is skilled at capturing the darkest corners of humanity and guiding actors to display the murky underbellies of civilization. Ventimiglia and Eklund dig deep to provide terrifying portraits of soulless, pitiless men. Shooting in chronological order and mimicking the food restrictions of the narrative off camera add an unmistakable reality to the performances. Eventually their unsightly external appearances match their ugly insides.

The bleakness of the film reaches unexpected lengths, but because the state of the world outside the room remains unknown and unreachable, it’s even harder to resist. The Divide is an excellent end of the world picture with an ending as unpredictable as the actions of its characters.

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