Divergent hit theaters this week, based on the popular young adult novel of the same name. The Summit Entertainment film, directed by Neil Burger and co-produced by author Veronica Roth, tells the story of a Dystopian society broken up into factions. The members of the individual factions dedicate their lives to one of the five solitary values: selflessness, knowledge, honesty, kindness, or bravery. The post-war society is said to be organized this way to avoid future devastation and catastrophe. The action in the film surrounds the main character, Tris Pryor, a young girl belonging to the selfless faction. When it comes time for their aptitude tests, which tell them which faction they should join, her test results are inconclusive. She is considered divergent, unable to conform societal norms, and thus a danger to the entire establishment. Tris must keep her test results a secret, and she must choose for herself whether to remain selfless with her family, or leave them for a life of excitement, danger, and courage.
Shailene Woodley as Tris Pryor is exceptional. Her emotions are completely believable, drawing the viewer into her perilous experiences. The imaginative premise is made realistic through her portrayal of a vulnerable teenager, caught in the midst of so much confusion. Theo James as Four is another break out star. Not only did he do all of his own stunts for the film, but he also manages to transform what could have easily been trite teen-romance scenes into genuine moments of sincere affection.
The supporting cast also adds clear depth to the film. Kate Winslet delivers a wicked performance in her first villainous role, and Jai Courtney’s darkness and brutality elicits a strong emotional response from the audience. The film does not shy away from adventure or violence, and stays true to the quality of the book. It is clear that Roth took her role as producer seriously enough to keep the film in line with her vision of the novel. Unlike so many movies based on books, Divergent takes an already strong story and makes it stronger by bringing it to life in a visually compelling way. It leaves you satisfied whether you are an avid fan and reader or a novice, brand new to the story. It maintains the central message about the power of individuality, something that will definitely resonate with younger viewers.
The only weaknesses in the film deal less with content and more with presentation. A low-budget/poorly chosen special effect can be identified here and there (the stop at the end of the zip-line and the green screen off of Four’s balcony, to name a few). Additionally, a camera effect used throughout the first half of the film is essentially a quick, blurry pan of a large area – a blurry scan of the school, a shaky scan of a faction building, focusing on nothing in particular. It can be distracting and slightly nauseating if you look too closely, and the inconsistency of the shots are questionable.
As a whole, Divergent is an exciting adventure that thrills younger audiences and can keep adults engaged and invested in the story. It is definitely worth a trip to the theater this week.
RATING: 3.5/4 Stars
SEE IT IF YOU LIKE: The Hunger Games, The Island, Minority Report
Video credit: Youtube Channel – SummitScreeningRoom