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The International Writers Magazine: Review

Director: Neil Burger
Writers: Evan Daugherty & Vanessa Taylor (screenplay) from the book by Veronica Roth
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd +
• Sam Hawksmoor review

We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another... We believe in shouting for those who can only whisper, in defending those who cannot defend themselves.
– Dauntless Manifesto

In a post-apocalyptic world divided by factions based on human virtues, teen Beatrice learns she's Divergent and won't fit in to any faction. Nobody likes ‘divergents’ in a world designed to be ‘separate but equal’ like apartheid was designed to do, with disastrous results.


On the day she has to make a choice as to which faction to live with a sympathetic tester (played by Maggie Q) tells her to lie, that she belongs to her original faction Abnegation (the turn the other cheek mob) and then chose whichever faction she wants to be in.  She opts for the energetic and somewhat lawless Dauntless because she has always admired their ‘guts’.  From weak submissive she grows via some very tough challenges in hand-to-hand fighting, jumping and shooting, into quite a competent Dauntless initiate.  A little too good for the people running the outfit, as she survives the scary, complex psychological tests a little too easily for their taste.  Tris isn’t easy to manipulate.

When she and Four (her trainer) discovers a plot to destroy Divergents and grab power over the other factions, Beatrice now Tris and Four (who has developed the hots for her) must find out and foil whatever terrible thing the Erudite faction have planned for Abnegation.  Erudite is the faction her brother chose because he likes the ‘law’.  It is led by Kate Winslet’s character who is hungry for power and spreads lies about the evil Abnegation faction to stir up trouble.  Gosh it all sounds like Putin and the Ukraine.  That too is playing out to a violent end and so too will Divergent.

Away with the plotting.  Is it any good?  Well I was sat in a half empty cinema on an Orange Wednesday, when you can get two for one tickets and wondering why more people weren’t there.  OK a lot of very butch looking guys with scars and tattoos were lining up for ‘Starred Up’ a grisly prison movie, so I guess that’s home from home for most of the audience, who wouldn’t want to see a ‘girl’ beat up people anyway.  But Divergent is actually better than the book. It takes its time to develop the characters and its all the better for that.  It looks good (shot on location in Chicago and Italy I understand) and everyone gets into character.  No tongue in cheek stuff and even if it is a little disconcerting to discover Ashley Judd is now playing Mom parts – Shailene Woodley gives her all and Four (Theo James) is perfectly cast as a wooden block. We bond and that's important.

For my taste there were all too many close ups of Tris trying to block any emotions and one has to watch her mouth for all kinds of clues as to what she is feeling to get any reading at all.  But Neil Burger (Limitless) has delivered a taught, accurate rendition of the first book and ok, if the politics of it all are a bit Tribal 101, it has action and lots of jumping and it all looks good.  I could quibble that if the kids are climbing up metal pylons to the overhead trains, in a hundred years since the war, they could have built a station up there and I didn’t see any rust (or anyone painting and maintaining the crumbling Chicago). For a long movie, it is never boring and doesn’t quite insult our intelligence as much as any Marvel movie.  How does it compare to Hunger Games?  It’s of a type, what can I say and Hunger Two was better than One, so with luck, Insurgent will build on what’s here and deliver something more intense.

'Ignorance is defined not as stupidity but as lack of knowledge. Lack of knowledge inevitably leads to lack of understanding. Lack of understanding leads to a disconnect among people with differences.' Euridite Manifesto

Either way – it prevented me from seeing Noah (Phew).  But then again, I so enjoyed Wes Anderson’s ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ last month; I want to go see it again.  I doubt I’ll have the same impulse for Tris and Four.

© Sam Hawksmoor April 2014
The Final Thrilling Conclusion to The Repossession 'The Heaviness' is out now

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