The hunt for the next successful teen-film-franchise may be over. Divergent is a gripping, exciting film, which keeps the cheesy romance to a minimum and the thrills to a high. It has its problems (what film doesn’t?) but it’s a much better stab at adapting a book than anything else we’ve seen this year so far. And for those of you who think it may be riding on the previous success of the dystopian post-apocalyptic genre, you couldn’t be more wrong!
Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley) lives in a future society where the population is divided into five factions based on their personality: Abnegation for the selfless, Amity for the peaceful, Candor for the truthful, Erudite for the intelligent, and Dauntless for the brave. You can ignore Amity and Candor for the duration of this film. However, Tris finds out that she’s divergent, meaning she doesn’t fit into any one category. She decides to join Dauntless, where she meets Four (Theo James), and has to fight to keep her divergence hidden and to prevent herself from being thrown out and made ‘faction-less’. She also begins to suspect that Erudite, led by cold-hearted Jeanine (Kate Winslet), is trying to overthrow the ruling Abnegation, so feels she has to do something about that too.
The overall plot feels like two mini-plots sewn haphazardly together. The transition from one to the other is not at all subtle, and comes completely out of nowhere. Apart from this, Limitless director Neil Burger does a good job of preventing the film from becoming another stale teen movie. The progression of the protagonist is clear, and events are well paced. There are also plenty of tense fight scenes, made all the more epic by the fantastic score, provided by Junkie XL.
There is good group dynamic among the characters. Tris befriends Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and Al (Christian Madsen), who don’t have large amounts of screen time, but make a quickly likable impression anyway. This definitely helps to make the film more dramatic later on.
Shailene Woodley puts on a brilliant performance. At times, her character is frustrating, but overall you definitely support her throughout the film. Theo James’ acting abilities didn’t really get a chance to shine though, as his character was the typical brooding, silent but good-looking love interest. Of course, I haven’t read the books so I don’t know if the character was meant to be like that or not.
This film certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as another Hunger Games rip off. It has better visual effects, more likable characters, and is exciting and interesting from the very beginning. I have high hopes that the remaining two books will become two (or probably three) more incredible films. You should definitely give it a try.
Divergent (2014), directed by Neil Burger, is released in UK cinemas by Entertainment One, Certificate 12A.