Director: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller
UK Release Date: 19th March 2015
Insurgent is an unforgiving sequel and certainly no standalone piece; you’re going to be mercilessly left in the dark if you haven’t read Veronica Roth’s young adult series or seen 2014’s “Divergent”. Picking up almost exactly where its predecessor left off and sporting a plot that adds complexity relentlessly, even viewers that did see the first film may want to consider a quick re-watch before jumping into number two in “The Divergent Series”.
The story continues following Tris and Four, the wanted and exiled “Divergents”, as they attempt to rally dystopian Chicago’s as-yet unseen factions and bring down the tyrannical Jeanine. The “5 Factions” set-up of the Divergent Series is arguably the most intriguing aspect of its world-building. Exploration of these societal segments was distinctly lacking in “Divergent” and deeper insight into their differing roles is a refreshing addition. Unfortunately we are still only given a surface look at both the agricultural “Amity” and honest “Candor” factions, and the underclass “Factionless” remains unexplored on any deeper level. In fact, it remains relatively unclear what purpose Candor even serves in this utilitarian future other than “being the really truthful guys”.
Plot focus remains an issue for Insurgent. While the original also struggled with this, at least it retained a palpable sense of adventure that’s largely absent from its sequel. Insurgent feels less like a continuing quest and more like a cobbled together series of events that we are ambling between. The way in which almost every set-piece ends with a “just in the nick of time” escape or a monumentally huge stroke of luck kills all real suspense in most action scenes, and serves as further evidence of weak writing. Consequently, the virtual reality segments, are the most exciting due to their unrestrained nature; when Triss is plugged into different “sims”, the film does manage to pull off a degree of deception, with a few moments of “is this real or just part of hallucination?”.
Performances are a mixed bag all around, Shailene Woodley and Theo James lead the cast with understated strength. Woodley’s downplayed reactions and quiet delivery add a realistic aura to the young Tris, although past the first act her character’s self-pitying guilt gets fairly tiring. Kate Winslet’s entire presence is reduced to crossing her arms all the time and saying menacing things with a neutral face, making her a thoroughly unconvincing villain. Miles Teller adds a welcome slice of comic relief, his snarky character flips and flops between allegiances so often that Australians would call him a thong. Ansel Elgort, playing Tris’ brother, is given a considerably larger role in this sequel but does relatively little with the opportunity, showing almost the exact same facial expression throughout; Jonny Weston appears similarly wooden and out of his depth as a leader within the Factionless.
For fans of the Divergent series, both the source material and the first film, Insurgent is likely to be an enjoyable cinema experience, and the finale shows some promise for the next instalment (“The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1” is coming to screens in March 2016). Featuring all of the “Young Adult” genre staples, rebellious teens taking the power back from authoritarian adults, the gloomy sequel caters to its target demographic with ease. However for the uninitiated, there is very little on offer other than questionable storytelling, uninteresting character development and generic action sequences.
★ ★ ½
2.5 out of 5 stars