Film Review: Insurgent

Monday 9 November 2015 by

Insurgent, Divergent, Film

The spate of films adapted from Young Adult fiction continues unabated. From the Hunger Games, we move to the other dystopian story – the Divergent series, which tells the story of Tris, as she battles against the factions of her world. Insurgent is the second in the series; Tris and her friends are on the run from Jeanine – the psychotic leader who is determined to stop the divergents before they upend the faction system.

This is a high-octane blockbusting film (much like its predecessor) is fast and visually good-looking. Shailene Woodley plays Tris close to the edge, hovering around the lines between murderous rage, encompassing fear and overwhelming guilt whilst still able to add a touch of levity to proceedings. It’s a strong lead. The physicality of the role suits her, and she is a bright beacon amongst the characters. Unfortunately, I don’t rate Theo James as Four, but Jai Courtney (again) as the brutish Eric and Miles Teller as the whip-sharp Peter are excellent high notes.

The story itself is very much on a sharp upturn, introducing factions and the factionless at a rate of knots that could leaving you feeling a bit breathless. This is much slower in the books (as to be expected), but there’s something to be said about ramping it up for the big screen. But it is the actors rather than the plot that carry this film forward and keep you watching – from Woodley, Courtney and Teller, you get star turns from the likes of Kate Winslet as Jeanine and Naomi Watts as Evelyn – even the brief screentime from Zoë Kravitz is worth it.

Blockbusters such as these are always worth it for their cast. The sheer scale of the production (huge, sweeping landscapes and torturously realised interiors) are all well and good, but it’s the inhabitants that you stay for. The production itself, as I said, is visually brilliant. The factions are distinct and clear cut, with clever detailing right down to piercings and the stance a person takes, making the divisions obvious and yet not laboured.

At no point does this feel like a Hunger Games spin off – I’ve heard it being called a second-rate Hunger Games and I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, in many respects, I prefer the world of the Divergent series. It feels sharper, wittier, and all the more plausible. Plus, there isn’t that weird love story getting in the way of the crux of the issue (the love story between Tris and Four never seems to matter all that much, rather it is the soft cushioning from which the best bits spring). It’s an action film from start to finish, and it’s not shy about it. The perfect popcorn film.

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