Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet
It seems like ever since The Hunger Games came out, there has been a rise in teen dystopian society stories. Whenever I take a stroll through a bookstore, the shelves are stacked with the newest story about a downtrodden, heavily government controlled society that is just waiting for a teen hero to rise up and lead them into rebellion, and they usually manage to fit a little bit of a romance in on the side. Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for a dystopian story, it’s just they can get a little formulaic if they aren’t inventive enough. The Divergent series revolves around a desolate, post-apocalyptic version of Chicago, where the citizens are divided into five different factions based on human traits. Tris discovers that she doesn’t fit into just one of these factions – she is divergent.
Insurgent picks up the story three days after we left it in the first film. Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James) and a small group of others, are on the run from Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and her lackeys. The crimes against Abnegation have been pinned on them, and Jeanine is mercilessly hunting down divergents for use in opening a mysterious box that she believes contains a message from the city’s founders. The divergent needs to pass a simulation for each faction to open it, and Jeanine doesn’t mind that she has to burn through a few people until she finds the one that can do it. Kate Winslet seems to relish in her role as the villain, playing her with an unflinching ruthlessness that makes you glad you don’t live in her neighbourhood.
Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller were the standouts of the young group for me. Tris is dealing with the aftermath of not only losing both of her parents and the guilt she feels over that, but she is also having constant nightmares about shooting her friend Will. I think Shailene brought great emotional weight to the role, we feel for her and see her struggle to keep fighting. Miles Teller’s character Peter is incredibly arrogant and manipulative, but he plays it so well with a hint of likable mischief. He steals almost every scene he is in, even when he’s just hanging out at the edge of the shot. You mostly want to punch Peter in the face, but you also kind want to share a snack with him and talk about people that you hate.
The chemistry between Woodley and James is okay, I actually found them a lot more compatible in the first movie, but that might also be because there was so much action and running around in this one they didn’t have as much screen time together. Naomi Watts pops up as Four’s mother, who is also leader of the Factionless. She has her own motives for siding with Tris and Four, she wants to take down Jeanine like them, but Four suspects her ambitions beyond that.
Themes of friendship, bravery, forgiveness and identity still come through as they did in the books. Tris spends most of this movie at odds with herself, taking on the burden of guilt for the deaths that seem to be stacking up around her. As she learns more about her parents and brother, she is forced to question her own identity and beliefs. She also begins to feel that pushing people away may be the best way to keep them safe. Caleb (Ansel Elgort) is torn between his loyalty to Tris, and wanting to be accepted by Jeanine and his former chosen faction – Erudite. Four is faced with the horror of seeing his abusive father and having to interact with him through gritted teeth, and reuniting with the mother that abandoned him when he needed her most.
The action scenes for the most part flowed well and were fast paced. Although one right at the beginning where Tris and Peter get into a fight over a table in Amity looked really weird and ultra choreographed to me. I thought it was going to end up being some kind of Walter Mitty style fantasy that Tris was having, but it was real and just a bit off. However the rest of the action was great, and the simulation sequences were mind bendingly weird and visually stunning.
Having read the books I found it hard to switch off the part of my brain that was constantly comparing it or trying to figure it if things had changed. I liked the focus on the mystery box plot point, any excuse to give Kate Winslet more screen time is a good one. She was striding about that Erudite complex in her bodycon dresses like nobody’s business. It will be interesting to see how they find enough story to fill ‘Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’ for the last movies, as the third book was a lot more slow paced and light on action than the first two were. Also Hollywood if you’re listening, can we stop with the gimmick of splitting the last book/movie into two halves? I know you like to get that cash money, but all we are getting is one incredibly slow paced half and a second rushed and ridiculously fast paced half. It was okay for Harry Potter, but seriously that’s enough now.