Film review: INSURGENT from ‘Built For Speed’

Insurgent is the second instalment in that other dystopian, post-apocalyptic young adult series, Divergent.  For those unfamiliar with the saga, it follows the standard template for the young adult adventure genre: sensitive but feisty teen girl Triss (Shailene Woodley) becomes a freedom fighter battling an oppressive government and it’s smug leader, the ice cold Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and hooks up with the obligatory pretty boy warrior. The unusual aspect of the Divergent series is that the post-apocalyptic society in which it is set (a crumbling Chicago) is divided into factions which represent different personality traits:  Amity are the compassionate peacemakers, Erudite the elitist intellectuals, Abnegation the selfless ones and Dauntless the military types. Our heroine Triss is a Divergent, someone who cannot be slotted into one category, hence she embodies that teen desire for individuality while also tapping into the competing need for social acceptance.

In this second episode in the Divergent series Triss, her boyfriend Four (Theo James), Triss’s brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and the slimy Peter (Miles Teller) have escaped the nefarious Jeanine’s clutches and are fugitives hiding out with hippy-like Amity people.  When Jeanine comes into possession of a mysterious box that may hold vital secrets about their post-apocalyptic world and which only a Divergent can unlock, she threatens to kill innocent people unless Triss surrenders and undergoes a strange and dangerous mind probe that will unveil the box’s secrets.

Like the recent Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One, Insurgent is an unremarkable film bolstered by a few striking set pieces and an impressive twist.  The first half of this film is dull and for those unfamiliar with the story, confusing. The plot appears to be going nowhere and just wallows in Triss and Four’s bland relationship. The film becomes much more interesting as Triss undergoes the Inception-like mind probe and endures bizarre hallucinations and frightening tests of will as she uncovers some remarkable secrets about the society in which she lives.

Shailene Woodley is a moderately engaging heroine but she doesn’t have the charisma of a Jennifer Lawrence and doesn’t look quite as convincing in the more physical scenes. Winslet makes a fairly menacing villain although the role is one-dimensional and doesn’t allow for shades of grey in Jeanine’s character.  Naomi Watts makes a welcome appearance in this film and her morally ambiguous character promises to bring intrigue to the next episode.

This instalment of the Divergent series isn’t particularly inspiring but given the seismic plot shift toward the end of the film, the next instalment may be worth the wait.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Young adult/ science fiction/ action/ drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Neil Burger.

Release date: 19th Mar 2015

Running time: 119 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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