The Divergent Series: Insurgent

The Divergent Series: Insurgent

(M) Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Ashley Judd, Miles Teller

Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is living a life under pressure. The pressures of tragedy, politics, and the expectations of all the people in her life. Then there also is the realisation of her role in this seemingly utopian society, as well as the need for a leadership change. Cracks have formed within and between the well-formed structures of her society, and war seems inevitable. Lines are drawn and loyalties are being determined as opposing sides prepare for battle. Aware of the repercussions of her decisions, Tris must move past her own emotions, to consider her responsibilities among the chaos of a burgeoning new world order. Could it be that she is the unifying factor to this fragile and fractured world?

Insurgent is filled with themes such as forgiveness, identity, sacrifice and love. In finding her identity, Tris must come to terms with her “divergence” and how that will effect all who come into her life.

Insurgent is filled with themes such as forgiveness, identity, sacrifice and love. In finding her identity, Tris must come to terms with her divergence and how that will effect all who come into her life.

Much of Insurgent’s action is set in the dry riverbed of the Chicago River. The iconic drawbridges are part of the Chicago landscape but, in this story, these mighty expanses are useless. The drawbridges are set in the open position and are covered in vines. On many levels, these bridges are a fitting symbol for many areas of this movie.

Firstly, as Insurgent is the second story in a trilogy, it suffers a little from middle-film-itis. Literally, Insurgent is a bridge between the first instalment, Divergent, and the concluding chapter (well, chapters, as third story Allegiant will be split into Parts 1 and 2). Insurgent introduces some interesting twists but, in the end, all it does is leave a yearning for the denouement. Another metaphorical link to the broken Chicago River bridges has to do with strength. In the first film — Divergent – the goal was to strengthen Tris and the other members of the faction she is part of (“Dauntless”). New recruits to this faction experienced physical and mental training. This built their stamina and ability to serve the society, as the guardians and members of their faction.

Four moves from being the commanding presence of this film franchise, while Tris seems to lack the confidence which lead her to escape in the first film. The only person with any charisma is Peter, played brilliantly by Miles Teller (Whiplash). The despicable opportunist of the piece, what Peter lacks in moral appeal, he makes up for with a bit of adrenaline that propels the slow-moving story forward.

One key appealing element in Divergent is the transitions between the simulated world and reality. This added exceptional tension to that first film. Even though the CGI effects have improved, Insurgent demystifies this element and causes the set pieces  (which, admittedly, are amazingly well-mounted) to drag the story down. As opposed to adding some much-needed action.

On the plus side, Insurgent does offer great themes for discussion, such as forgiveness, justice, truth and sacrifice. There is a fascinating depiction of judgement when, during one scene, Tris and Four are put on trial. In the sequence that follows, they themselves must deliver justice. The moral dilemma Tris and Four face makes for a fascinating look at the nature of forgiveness.

In the end, Insurgent felt like it had different intentions to Divergent. These films include the same characters, but they seem to be taking themselves way too seriously in Insurgent. Within the realm of teen-targeted drama, this film is entertaining and is not surprising in its level of violence and adult themes. Yet director Robert Schwentke seems to unnecessarily apply deep commentaries about society, to a story line that buckles under such pressure. Ultimately, the bridge that is Insurgent’s story cannot handle the additional weight and the film lacks purpose.

Like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Insurgent is not a bad film, Fans should enjoy it but, while it does have interesting twists, the story is slow going. In the end, Insurgent works best as a set up to what is going to come next. As is the way with young-adult book adaptations, the third story in the series — Allegiant — will be broken up into two movies. All the better to milk fans of their cash.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. How will the world come to an end? (Matthew, 24:36, Revelation 20:1-15)
  2. Should we rebel against bad leadership? (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17)
  3. How can we overcome trauma? (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 34:4)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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