- Movie Rating -

The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015)

| March 24, 2015

Tris, the ever-plucky hero of the Divergent series, pulls off a lot of neat stunts in Insurgent, but one that no one will quite be able to explain is how she manages to turn her lovely head of long hair into a sweet pixie cut using only gardening shears – no mirror, no hair spray and no comb – and have it come out fit for the wall of your nearest beauty shop. It’s not the most implausible thing that she does in the movie, but it’s something you notice right away. It’s almost always a bad sign when the most implausible thing happens in the first five minutes.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent is loaded with implausibility, but if you’ve come looking for something logistically airtight then you’ve come to the wrong place. It has come to the point where you have to take these YA dystopian futures with a grain of salt. They’re all going to be crummy; the evil leader will be an humorless bore; the hero will be a mope; and the movie will employ a large supporting cast of interchangeable characters that no one cares about. Insurgent has those things but thankfully it’s one of the few YA products that is not offered up as an unwatchable cure for insomnia (I’m looking right at YOU, Maze Runner).

When Divergent premiered a year ago, I was in the minority in giving it a positive review. I offer the same opinion to the sequel only because at least it doesn’t repeat the formula of its predecessor. Walking away from its badly title follow-up, I actually did feel that a story had been progressed.

I kind of like the idea of this society of the future in which wars have allowed the government to separate the population into factions based upon their best personality traits: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intelligence) and Dauntless (bravery). As teenagers, each member of the population gets to choose, through a series of tests, which faction they will join for the rest of their lives. Nearly everyone possesses one discernible trait. If they possess more than one of these traits they are called Divergent. Got all that? Good. Because the movie opens with this information being announced to the populace by Jeanine (Kate Winslet) our resident B-Witch who, for some reason, wants to keep this segregation system intact.

As the movie opens we find Tris and her band of escapees hiding out in Amity – the friendly town – while troops from the government are looking high and low for them. A gun-battle ensues, Tris and her friends escape, and board a train to safety.

We already know why Tris and friends are on the run and that makes up the bulk of Insurgent which turns out to be more or less, a suited-up retelling of The Fugitive. Winslet wants Tris so that she can find out what makes a person Divergent – a test in which the subject is hooked up to some nasty looking hoses suspended from the ceiling while they are put through the test of Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite and Daultless. That means that we spend the film’s first half watching our heroes running from soldiers with guns. Of this, I slumped down in my chair and gave in to my impending drowsiness. That is, until the film’s second half in which we get to see the particulars of the test, and it’s a pretty cool scene – the details of which I will not spoil.

What works in Insurgent is the same thing that made Divergent work, and that’s Shailene Woodley as Tris. I’ve praised this young actress as being her generation’s diamond-in-the-rough ever since she played George Clooney’s daughter in The Decedents. She occupies a role naturally, so that you never feel that she’s acting. Check her out sometime in her best role in James Ponsoldt’s little-seen The Spectacular Now. Every time I see Woodley, I wait patiently for that moment when she will turn a boring role into something next level. Here she has a moment of near-emotional meltdown, a moment when the camera focuses just on her face and we get to see her really act – something that is virtually disallowed for the rest of the movie. It’s a brief moment, but it’s special.

What this film is missing is a sense of any kind of joy, which is a problem I had with Divergent and with The Hunger Games. Insurgent is a grim and often colorless movie that gives in to the demands of the dystopian future genre. I give it points for having a plot that (while ridiculous) is something I haven’t seen before. It has elements that feel fresh and new even if you had to dig deep to find them.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Drama, Recent