********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Robert Schwentke
Actors: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet
Popular books, slotted in the young-adult genre, are considered by many to be easy reads with dystopian worlds, love triangles, painful deaths, bitter sweet stories. They would certainly contain most of these elements, which would go well with a certain age group, but may not interest the so called “serious” readers. But if the core stories in The Hunger Games and Divergent series are given a meaningful thought, then you will find that they hold something more within them, something deeper than what the story on the back cover might indicate. The Hunger Games may seem to hold an unreal scenario because of the brutality of the ‘Games’, but take that away, and on the fringes you will find the brutality of a dictatorship which could be interchanged with existing regimes in our world. Divergent series may seem like a sci-fi story with little resemblance to our society, though look at it for a while more, and the idea of a government classifying its populace into different sections, misleading it for its own motives, aiming to squelch a rebellion which wants to spread the truth, would not seem that unreal after all. With Insurgent, the story of Divergent moves forward at a fast thrilling pace, and turns into something more than just a sci-fi YA film.
Insurgent begins from where Divergent left us; the wreckage of the Abnegation society is being searched by Dauntless soldiers while Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) is on the run along with Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter Hayes (Miles Teller). They find sanctuary in the Amity faction as they plan their next move. Meanwhile the leader of Erudite, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), is in search of a strong Divergent who can open an artifact that holds a message from the city’s founders. Divergents are now being hunted, and if that was not enough, Tris has her own inner demons to battle. The stakes are rising, as Tris and her companions find themselves in a fight where courage and loyalty will be tested.
The screenplay team had been changed for Insurgent, with Evan Daughtery and Vanessa Taylor (who had done a great job in Divergent) making way for Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, and Mark Bomback. The new writers have put in place another wonderful screenplay for the sequel, this time with more action and intensity than the first flick. The pace of the movie has gone up by more than a notch, with little time to take a breather. The music by Joseph Trapanese also keeps the heart thudding and adds to the intensity of the movie. Director Robert Schwentke has bounced back well after his previous dull flick R.I.P.D. which lacked any substance, to deliver a sequel that keeps the story moving forward. There is a lot of energy in this movie which transmits to the audience, and while the idea of a dystopian world no longer seems a novelty, Schwentke has focused more on the insecurities and apprehensions of the lead character Tris to give this movie a more human touch. The visual effects are also sharper and superior than those in the first movie; the increased production budget may have something to do with that. The romantic angle takes a bit of a backstage, which may not go down well with a section of the audience though.
Movies like these rest a lot on how much you can feel for the lead character, and root for him or her. With Shailene Woodley, you get an incredible actress, so your job as a member of the audience becomes easier. The bulk of the movie rests on her shoulders, and she has handled the weight very well. She brings out the tough exterior and the soft interior of Tris with ease and gives her many different dimensions; she will make you feel sorry for her, she will make you proud of her. This role though gives you only a glimpse into the strengths of Shailene Woodley as an actress, and the future, I am sure, will bring forth the true depths of her acting prowess. Theo James plays the more assured character of Four, the one with leadership skills, the one a bit more certain of what he is doing as compared to Tris. Theo James is also building his repute as an actor, and his performance in this series would help.
While Shailene Woodley and Theo James have done justice to their characters individually, their chemistry is not really the bright spot of Insurgent, and lacks the spark we saw in Divergent. The story does not push their romance much forward, that could be one reason, but the actors too somehow seem reluctant in this aspect. A dull romance is matched with a dull villain in Kate Winslet as Jeanine. She hardly made me jittery as the cold-blooded, ambition driven leader, and even though her performance is an improvement over the first movie, Kate Winslet has been a poor casting decision from the beginning. Jai Courtney, as the wicked soldier hunting Tris, in fact is far more menacing and villain-worthy than Winslet. Ansel Elgort does not have much screen time, or at least not enough screen time worthy of talking about, which would come as a disappointment to the fans of the star of The Fault in Our Stars. Miles Teller too has a limited role, but one with more shades that is worth noticing; here is another budding talent and I hope that he has a bigger role in the upcoming movies of the series. Always great to see Ashley Judd even in a brief appearance, and the new addition Naomi Watts also has an important and interesting role to play.
Insurgent has taken this series much forward at an exhilarating pace. Pause and think about this futuristic world though, and you will see elements of our current society in it. The next set of two movies, which would be based on the final book Allegiant, can scale up events further and make this an entertaining and thought-provoking ride as we reach towards the end. At least that is what I am hoping for. We will know in a year’s time…