“This is the only chance to rescue what little civilization we have left.”
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Jai Courtney, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller
The Divergent Series: Insurgent raises the stakes for Tris as she searches for allies and answers in the ruins of a futuristic chicago. Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) are now fugitives on the run, hunted by Jeanine (Winslet), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris’s family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices but desperate to protect the ones she loves, Tris, with Four at her side, faces one impossible challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world.
If the first instalment in the burgeoning Divergent Series was middling, then Insurgent can only be described as poor, and a step back for what had the potential to be a reasonable crack at dystopian young adult drama. It’s not unwatchable, but it simply doesn’t develop or move things forward enough to justifiably stand up next to the elite of the genre.
In my review of Divergent I questioned whether Woodley has the presence to convincingly pull off her role as the rebel leader, and with Insurgent I received my answer – No. In one particularly ridiculous scene, Woodley’s Tris stands trial, and to prove her innocence agrees to take a truth serum. What I’m sure was meant to play as a powerful, moving scene quickly degenerates into ridiculousness, as she spills truths about her past with a distinct lack of conviction.
Sadly it’s that lack of conviction that undercuts any potential for her to become a truly likeable character, or a particularly believable one either. Why is she so important? We see a growing number of other Divergents throughout, so what separates her and makes her so crucial? We see very little evidence of her excelling in leadership, combat, or generally as an empathetic human being, so why her? The films tells us that there are different levels of Divergence, with Tris being at 100% Divergent, but I’m calling nonsense on this.
The problem is that the rules of the world of the Divergent Series just haven’t been well enough defined. In Divergent this was mostly passable, with the story taking place on a smaller scale, but with Insurgent the story universe begins to open up, more factions, lore and Divergents are introduced and without the film having laid the foundations to prop it all up, it leads to plot holes and poorly defined characters, and rules for them to operate within. Woodley gives her best effort to impose herself in the lead role, but the narrative – including crucial evidence of her character’s importance – is just so poorly held together that it gives her little chance of succeeding.
The film just doesn’t seem to want to help itself, with characters flip flopping from good to evil and back again in every other scene, and questionable dialogue, such as “I’m not gonna fight you.” – “Of course you’re not. You’re gonna fight you.” littered throughout.
It’s not all a bomb though. Proceedings start well enough with a fairly zippy action set piece, and the best component of the first movie returns, the ever unpleasant Eric, again brought to life with glorious villainy by Jai Courtney. Kate Winslet is also back, and does a reasonable job in her villainous role – but much like Courtney she finds herself underused.
All in all it means that there is plenty of work to be done to rescue the franchise moving forward, but the vital signs are not looking particularly good. You should probably just watch The Hunger Games instead.
Sloppy, underwhelming and not all that exciting, Insurgent is undeniably a move backwards for the series. Don’t worry though, the final book in the trilogy has been split into two parts, so that’s something for us all to look forward to…..
Rating (out of 5):