Director Neil Burger, screenwriters Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, and actors Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet combine to make an entertaining and engaging film. “Divergent”, based upon the book of the same name by Veronica Roth, tells the story of a futuristic Chicago which is divided into factions to reduce the threat of war. Citizens are sorted into a faction based upon one dominant personality trait. Beatrice Prior (Woodley) is up for her test that will determine which faction she will be living in for the rest of her life, but a complication arises which puts her in danger. Beatrice – who renames herself Tris – is Divergent. She cannot be categorized as only one thing. This leads her to go into hiding in a daring faction and to the discovery of a dangerous plot.
I will admit to being initially underwhelmed by the first teaser trailer and the premise of “Divergent”. The actual film needed to convince me it was worth the watch. Well, consider me convinced. I went in thinking it’d be yet another dystopian adaptation that didn’t offer anything new. While it does bear some resemblance to a beloved film franchise, it diverges from those other films very early on. Pun intended. There’s entertaining action, engaging dialogue, complex characters, and a strong underlying message. What more could you want in a film?
When we first meet Dauntless, they’re performing some unnecessarily dangerous act whilst heading to the faction test. As we are shown more of this faction’s activities, my first thought was that the number one requirement of being in Dauntless is to be reckless. And while this is very true, the beauty of this faction – at least for Tris – is the adventure and complete freedom they seem to have. She was born in a faction that was very, very restrained and so from a young age she is drawn to their daring acts.
Part of why Tris is such a good character is that she doesn’t begin being physically strong. In fact, she’s quite weak in that regard. However, she is always consistently mentally and emotionally strong. That is the driving force of her character and that is what makes her such a complex character. She’s determined, brave, caring, and she knows what she wants. It’s wonderful to see a female character be a leader.
“If you don’t fit into a category they can’t control you.”
The acting in this film is spot on. Woodley as Tris is a perfect combination of vulnerable yet incredibly strong. The role seems to be a natural fit for her, and I had no trouble seeing her as the character and not as herself. James plays Four, one of the trainers within Dauntless. At first, he seems to be a brusque and arrogant character, but of course that is a mask he adopted in order to survive. Again, the acting is well done. I haven’t seen Kate Winslet in a film in awhile but in “Divergent” she played, with ease, a darker, more complex character than I’ve seen her play for some time.
Overall, “Divergent” is a really good film. While fans of the books are sure to enjoy it, people who are new to this world will enjoy it just as much. I’m already looking forward to the sequel, which will be called “Insurgent”.