Every choice we take, and every alliance we make has the ability for great good or great evil. They have the potential to change you for the better, or destroy you to the point that you will never recover, physically and psychologically. Every decision has repercussions, and as civil unrest reigns rampant in the factions all around her in Chicago, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) must continue to fight the good fight with help from Four (Theo James), Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort) as well as Peter (Miles Teller) despite never truly being able to trust him. We never truly know whose side he’s on because Peter serves Peter and nobody else. She must carry on fighting in order to saves her loved ones, but also herself, whilst living with the guilt of days past including the death of her parents in the last the movie (Divergent). Her mind is a barrel of conundrums riddled with mental conflict and forgiveness (of herself) but also identity, loyalty, politics, love and the war that is coming.
Tris’ initiation into society with Dauntless should have been celebrated but it was met with much scorn and hateful horrors. Civil War now looms in the near distance between the different factions and their ideologies are at logger heads with each other. Violence is inevitable and when war comes, everyone must pick a side. In wartime, sides must be chosen and the choices that they make will be even more irreversible yet hold a power that one wouldn’t even perceive was there. Altered by her choices, but also her grief and guilt, new revelations and moving relationships, Tris must fully embrace her identity. She must accept herself as being factionless, a Divergent and understand what it means to be one. She must do this even if she doesn’t understand what, or who she might lose by making this necessary decision.
In this second movie of the growing Divergent series (based on books by Veronica Roth), we get to know the characters a bit more. The sequel is more involving and it interacts with the audience a bit more. Divergent set the scene. Insurgent develops on these scenes and develops the personalities and characteristics of the protagonists and the antagonists we got to know in the first movie. Peter shows a bit more of his scaly personality and that he can’t be trusted. He’s selfish, arrogant and only thinks about himself. He’s all of these things when our heroes are on the brink of war and all he cares about is what he gets out of it. Characters like that are great to watch and I love to hate Peter because Teller (Fantastic Four) plays him to such perfection with much wit and sarcasm to such a well-written character.
This series much alike the other dystopian teen dramas are almost pure CGI but that doesn’t bother me at all. They’re worth the cinema experience. Some CGI makes me feel ill but not so in the Divergent series. Some of the set pieces are a spectacle to watch. We have a new director this time in the form of Robert Schwentke (RED) who brings of an aura of engaging action through the cinematic thrill-rides when adversaries are hot on our heroes’ tails at the behest of Jeanine (Kate Winslet). As the series continues, the faction system seems to get more real for me as the ideologies of this series are grounded in reality in humanity’s fear of those are different. When people get scared, they often jump on a bandwagon thus we adopt the “safety in numbers” mentality. It makes us feel safe but it really has failed more than it has succeeded.
The movie has many good action sequences but I think the attractive factor in this movie and this series is the story itself. I don’t really care much for films if their action sequences are good but the story is lacking. I’d take a meaningful story over gun fights and car chases any day. There are sturdy design components and some dazzling special effects but the sequel is as good as sequels any sequel will get. It’s often tradition that sequels are worse than the first movie of the franchise but I think Insurgent trumps Divergent. The concept of a society that cuts us into groups based on skill set and personality is intriguing. Then there’s the artfully made mystery box that only a divergent can open. Divergents have the best qualities of all the factions and this box is said to have the answers to why the system is the way it is hence this box sets us up for the next movie, Allegiant.
We have great performances yet again from all the cast with new additions including Octavia Spencer (The Help) as the head of Amity at the beginning of the movie. She harbours our fugitives including Tris, Four and company at a “safe place”. Tris taking cuts her hair to help disguise herself. When she’s not taking out armed guards, she’s beating herself up over her own guilt. She has a guilty conscience about how people are constantly putting their lives on the line for her, and sometimes losing their lives as we saw with her parents (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn). She leaves a trail of bodies behind her and she doesn’t feel she’s worthy to be the chosen one and the one to end Jeanine’s fascist rule of Chicago. Naomi Watts (The Impossible) is introduced as Four’s presumed-dead mother who is out of hiding and back to end Jeanine’s rule too. We think she’s one of the good guys but I think as we see her character develop, she’s basically another Jeanine. Power does strange things to people and she embodies humanity’s blood lust to wage war before looking down other avenues to find peace.
Dystopian movies are riddled with relatively young, inexperienced actors who aren’t big names at all or have had small roles on television. The casts are relatively unknown and to have more experienced actors present among them is a must, so Winslet and Watts were a necessity. We have the same thing with The Hunger Games. Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t always a big name. She made her debut with Winter’s Bone (2010) but she only really got big in 2012 with The Hunger Games. We had Woody Harrelson (True Detective) and Donald Sutherland (JFK) to bring that seasoned acting prowess to the floor, as well as Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy). In the Maze Runner: Scorch Trials we have Aiden Gillen (The Wire, Game Of Thrones) to bring that welcome experience.
In conclusion, this is a great sequel to a series with an awesome concept. I find the characters very relatable. The movie has some great set pieces and great performances. There were less cringeworthy scenes between Tris and Four second time around which I was very grateful for, and Winslet stole the show for the second time. Winslet was made to be the villain and she does it effortlessly. Good direction, good script but this series is great because of its concept. Films like these are made to entertain, not to win Oscars so when I watch films of the dystopian genre, I don’t put my expectations too high.