MOVIE REVIEW: INSURGENT / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: ROBERT SCHWENTKE / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: SHAILENE WOODLEY, THEO JAMES, KATE WINSLET, JAI COURTNEY, ANSEL ELGORT, MILES TELLER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The second of the Divergent series is here, continuing the tale of Tris Prior (Woodley, aka the Mary Jane that never was) as she battles to get by and find her true calling in a world segmented into varying “factions” and on the brink of war. Yep, this is standard Young Adult affair at its most Young Adult and with a large dollop of sci-fi obviously thrown in.
As introduced in the previous film, this “dystopian future” (as in generic cinematic lingo for any future world that has gone to shit) finds people allotted to one of five different factions. Well, apart from those who cannot be pinpointed into one particular pot and who end up ticking various boxes, with those people being known as Divergent. Of course, there’s always bad guys at play in these type of situations, with Jeanine (Winslet) leading the Erudite group in a quest for complete control of all and sundry, not to mention hunting down Tris for her gifts. As such, Tris is involved in a brewing war as she has to come to terms with who she is, what she can do, and to essentially thwart the corruption and political power plays of the day whilst forming/breaking bonds and relationships (which happens far too frequently) as she goes.
Insurgent is a strange beast in how the story is massively bland yet a lot of the performances are surprisingly good. Sure, Kate Winslet feels majorly underused in her Bond villain-lite role, but the main leads of Shailene Woodley and Theo James actually do far better than you’d think in such an action-heavy sci-fi effort. To look at, one would never pin Woodley down as somebody who can grab your attention as the focal point of an explosive actioner, yet she does, and she has to receive huge credit for being able to do so. James is decent enough as Four, Tris’ partner in crime, and then there’s also Jai Courtney as a wonderfully menacing presence as part of Jeanine’s muscle on the hunt for Tris and Co. Miles Teller’s rogue Peter and Ansel Elgort’s Caleb (brother of Tris) are so-so at best, mind, with both characters feeling just a little clichéd.
And that’s part of the problem of Divergent; it all seems far too familiar. The basic plot points of the story have been seen a thousand times before, only maybe not quite as stylised. The look of the film is actually rather mesmerising at points, with the SFX work far better than what many may expect. Still, a glossy sheen and a strong central performance cannot make up for the cold, played out, shell of a story that the film is trying to tell.
Fans of generic YA fodder may get tight in the pants in excitement at Divergent, but for the rest of us who’ve seen these stories more times than we’d like to admit, it’s all just a tad bland, predictable and yawn-inducing. Still, the film does again mark out Shailene Woodley as a talent to keep your eye on. It’s just a shame that her performance is wasted on such a below-par effort.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10