Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent

The screen adaptation of  the first novel in Veronica Roth's immensely popular Divergent series was thrilling and faithful to the book. The movie, directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist) has a solid cast that includes Shailene Woodley as Beatrice (Tris) Prior, Theo James as Tobias Eaton, Ashley Judd as Tris' mother, Natalie, Ansel Elgort as Tris' brother, Caleb and Kate Winslet was Jeanette Matthews. Rounding out the cast is Maggie Q as the hardened Tori, Zoe Kravitz as Christina and Jai Courtney as the bad-ass Eric.

Divergent tells the story of post-apocalyptic Chicago, a city isolated from the rest of the country by an enormous fence designed to keep whatever is left, outside. Inside the city, the population is organized into factions based on virtues. At the age of sixteen, young people chose which faction they will belong too in an initiation ceremony. This ceremony takes place after they have undergone testing to see which faction they show an aptitude for. Beatrice Prior's test is inconclusive because she demonstrates an aptitude for three factions, Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless. This means that Beatrice can overcome her fears and that she cannot be controlled like most of her fellow citizens. She is warned not to tell anyone because she is considered "divergent" and that she must hide within a faction.

Believing herself not worthy of staying with Abnegation, at her choosing ceremony, Beatrice picks the Dauntless faction and leaves her family to begin initiation into this faction. The initiation process is cruel and physically taxing, but Beatrice who now goes by the name of Tris, finds an ally in Four who is one of the Dauntless leaders. Four sees that Beatrice is both brave and selfless and he begins to help her train to move up the ranks. As romance begins to blossom between Four and Tris, they discover that their factioned society is breaking down with the Erudite faction accusing Abnegation of mismanaging the government.

In an attempt to remove Abnegation from their position of control, Jeanine Matthews, leader of the Erudites, uses an mind control serum that causes the Dauntless warriors, who believe they are in a simulation, to attack the Abnegation faction. Because they are divergent, Tris and Four are not affected. Instead they must now try to stop the wholesale slaughter of an entire faction.

The movie provides fans of the novels a wonderful means to visually experience the Divergent world author Veronica Roth created in her novel, showing a ruined Chicago with vast abandoned areas, partially destroyed buildings and a rejuvenated city center. Director Neil Burger does an good job of portraying life in ruined Chicago with its five factions, showing how each group dress and how their lives are lived so separately from one another.

While the entire cast give strong performances and Shailene Woodley was surprisingly good as Tris, Theo James in particular stood out as Dauntless trainer, Four. James' solid effort proves he's more than just a pretty face and he almost steals the spotlight in this movie.

The screenplay is well done too, as it effectively showcases Tris' development from a shy, awkward teenager unsure about her future, into a brave and selfless young woman who begins to assert her "divergence" to challenge the status quo. This leads to plenty of action, romance, and tragedy.

Here's the well done trailer:

Completing this solid effort is a diverse soundtrack that is both appealing and enhances the action on the screen.

This movie is as good as the Hunger Games series and will be enjoyed by those who loved the Divergent series. The next movie, Insurgent is slated for release in March, 2015.

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