“Insurgent” Movie Review

      “Insurgent” continues the story established with last year’s “Divergent”, based on the three novel book series by Veronica Roth.  More than once I’ve discussed the obvious trends within the film industry that capitalize on these young adult novels that all seem to present very similar stories set within a dystopian future.  Studios have given in to these trends simply because they are proven money makers, with even the method with which they are distributed always causing a fuss amongst these film’s many fans, the results in the end are undeniable.  Taking a cue from the recent “Hunger Games” franchise, as well as the “Twilight” franchise before it, the “Divergent Series” as they call it will split the third book in the franchise, “Allegiant”, into two films, the first of which will come out in the Spring of 2016.  This normally waters down the content significantly with no better example being “Mockingjay Part 1”, but it doesn’t seem to stop rival studios from presenting their product in the exact same way.

     As a middle part, if you will, “Insurgent” doesn’t carry itself with same kind of appeal that “Divergent” did.  In my review of “Divergent” last year, I didn’t think it was a bad film but I did comment on its lack of ability to “match the one film it obviously intends to emulate”, that being “The Hunger Games”.  After viewing the second part, I’ve come to the conclusion that the “Divergent Series” may have to be satisfied with being a poor man’s “Hunger Games”, as the later will always be viewed as being significantly more epic and original.  Try as she may, Shailene Woodley’s character, Tris, is no Katniss Everdeen even though nearly every trait both characters possess is nearly the same.  Both can exist; however, in a market that is clearly hungry for the next YA yarn.  It seems as though these stories have become the calling card for today’s youth as they dramatically explore themes that indicate they are in no mood to continue with the established norms of prior generations.  They want to uprise and defeat the man! Or in the case of “Insurgent”, defeat the woman, Jeanine, again played by Kate Winslet.

     “Insurgent” begins where “Divergent” left off as we now are fully briefed on how society assigns people to one of five factions based on their identified personality traits.  A person who is Divergent is one who shows the traits of all five factions and thereby doesn’t fit into any of them.  Society is programmed to be threatened by a Divergent person because they are more likely to exhibit free thought and challenge the predetermined path of which everyone else is satisfied to follow for their entire life.  The requisite and predictable love story between Tris and Four (Theo James) continues as “Insurgent” begins and the duo along with her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles Teller) have arrived at the peaceful Amity to hide and recover from the events that occurred at the end of the last film.  Hot on their trail is a group of Dauntless led by Eric (Jai Courtney) who have been sent by Jeanine in an effort to capture Tris.

     Jeanine has come into the possession of a mysterious box that is labeled with the insignia of each faction and is said to contain an important message about the future of their society.  To open it, a truly Divergent person must be connected to a device that runs the person through five virtual simulations that will indicate to the mechanisms in the box that the person has each and every trait of all five factions.  When several attempts with other subjects fail, Jeanine realizes Tris is her only hope at opening the box as she is 100% Divergent and uses everything at her disposal to capture her.  Meanwhile, Tris and Four find themselves at a “factionless” safe zone soon after their initial run in with Eric where Four meets a mysterious character from his past named Evelyn (Naomi Watts), who offers the help they may need to change the world as they know it.

     Director Robert Schwentke (“RED”, “Flightplan”) has clearly injected “Insurgent” with the exhilaration created by several notable action sequences that the first film was mostly devoid of while it was breaking down the foundation of the story.  With all of the main characters well established, Schwentke wastes no time in putting them in a number of perilous situations that feature plenty of gun play and the obvious use of “Matrix” style action, especially in a rather inventive scene in which Tris finds herself with the virtual simulations I spoke of as Jeanine attempts to get her to open the mysterious box.  If “Divergent” told us as an audience what exactly these characters were dealing with within the society they were living, “Insurgent” shows us how they have decided to deal with it given the talents they have now discovered exist within themselves.  The characters talk a lot less, but they are given moments to shine by screenwriters Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, and Mark Bomback, particularly during a scene in which the characters are given a truth serum while on trial at the Candor faction.  In addition, the filmmakers concoct a satisfying third act that seems to bridge into the final book much better than the typical cliffhanger normally employed as an ending to this type of film.