Film Review: 'Insurgent'
Opened: 20 March 2015
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet
Director: Robert Schwentke
Producers: Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, Pouya Shabazian
Following the initial outing of the franchise, which had all the creative drive and look of a sanitary towel commercial, Divergent’s sequel certainly talks a much bigger game. Set in a huge cityscape surrounded by an all-protecting wall the inhabitants follow a faction system that is in place to provide peace and prosperity, however one faction (Erudites – the clever ones) seek to take control because frankly they just know better than everyone else. The story is essentially a fantasy metaphor for the workplace where the heroine Triss (played doe eyed and droll by Shailene Woodley) must tediously avoid the wrath of supreme super bitch from Human Resources Jeanine (Seriously? Your villain is a clipboard wielding civil servant… called Jeanine?! FFS!). Jeanine is possibly the worst thing Kate Winslett has ever done, including letting Jack die needlessly at the end of Titanic, delivering a wooden performance with an occasional air of nonchalant camp.
Jeanine is convinced the Divergents (multi-faction types like Triss and Four) are a danger to peace, but quite conveniently a new plot twist means she needs them alive to crack open a capsule that dates from the founding of the city. Not able to see beyond her own nose Jeanine, the least capable cinematic villain ever, has no idea that this Pandora’s box is sure to blow up in her face - unlike the audience which is given every possible suggestion that it will be good news for Triss and her Divergent buddies.
Much like the first film, most the exciting action sequences are simulated aptitude tests (whoever wrote this really hates HR!) undertaken by Triss, this time in order to open the capsule. Yet again this returns us to the office fantasy where the plain girl Triss, who no one would give the time of day to, gets the sex dripping model beast Four (Theo James) a character we all know in the real world (workplace) would be a major douchebag and have fathered four kids with three different women, before being rolled onto Jeremy Kyle for a lie detector test. Other notable workplace archetypes include the office bully Peter (Miles Teller) and the new intern Caleb (Ansel Elgort), a pathetic specimen so subservient that he will not even question his boss as she tries to kill his sister.
There are few glimmers of redemption for this cinematic write-off but they are there; Daniel Dae Kim brings swathes of credibility with his performance as Jack Kang, leader of the law-making Candor faction while Jai Courtney’s return as Eric (the management consultant with his finger on the trigger) provides some much needed menace.
Sadly for director Robert Swentke, he could really do with a decent hit. While his pensioner populated Red (2010) hit many of the right notes the rest of his recent work is forgettable… RIPD anyone? He misguidedly tries to give Insurgent an epic blockbuster scale using sweeping aerial shots of the city and an uplifting soundtrack, when what the story actually craves character driven dialogue. Comparisons to the Hunger Games are undeserved as it would be a very sickly cousin of the aforementioned, while to say it is a sci-fi take on the Twilight story arch is also not doing it justice: handling the fallout from the first movie with satisfying conclusions and maintaining a determined narrative trajectory that irreversibly alters the status quo. Teenage girls in need of a confidence boost and hot eye candy will definitely get what they need from Insurgent, but other audiences will recognise the cynical button pushing and shallow real life metaphor all too easily.