Divergent (2014)

DIVERGENT (2014, Neil Burger)

Dir: Neil Burger - Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q, Ansel Elgort, Caleb Prior, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, Zoë Kravitz, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer

Half the world seems to be reading dystopian novels aimed at younger audiences these days, while Hollywood is trying to turn these novels into movies the whole world wants to see. Divergent is set in a future Chicago, a few decades after the great Cataclysm. Society - or what’s left of it - is divided into five different factions called Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Amity and Candor. At the age of 16, all youths must pick the faction in which they will live for the rest of their lives. A test indicates in which faction they really belong, but they’re nevertheless free to follow their heart. Most of them choose the faction in which they were born, but there are exceptions and of course our heroin, Beatrice (Tris to friends), is one of them: she born in Abnegation and her parents are shocked to find out that she opts for Dauntless.

Beatrice is also one of those who do not fall into one single category: the result of her test was inconclusive, she is divergent. These youths are thought to be dangerous are therefore expelled from society, but luckily for Tris the proctor who takes the test is a divergent herself and changes the test results. Tris will have more luck in the remainder of the movie: characters who are in a position to influence the course of things, will often turn out to be divergent.

Those who have read the books will tell you that the story moves on at good pace, but the movie is rather slow, with too much attention spent to the training of the initiates in Dauntless; they're put to various endurance tests as well as drug-induced simulations (to find out what their deepest fears are). I won't say these sessions are dull, but they're not thrilling either and it takes a while before the real story-line picks up: Society is ruled by Abnegation, but Erudite wants to take over power with the help of Dauntless. This puts Tris in immediate danger: Erudite has planned to control the minds of the Dauntless warriors with the help of a specially developed serum, but it doesn’t work for those who are divergent ...

Divergent has been called a wannebee Hunger Games. Shailene Wooley (who plays Beatrice) is no Jennifer Lawrence, and she’s 23, not 16, but it doesn’t really matter: she’s quite a babe, all hair, eyes and curves, and there’s also some chemistry between her and square-jawed Theo James, her instructor, mentor and (of course) lover. Kate Winslet is great in a supporting role as the deliciously wicked leader of Erudite and Maggie Q. and Ashley Judd make nice cameo appearances. With a setting in a post-apocalyptic world and a plot about mind control, it may sound like an adult version of a teenage adventure, but the movie remains firmly rooted in teenie weenie wonderland. Minds are controlled by a serum, not by religious or ideological indoctrination, and don’t forget: The mind of our heroine can’t be controlled, so whatever happens, in the end she will save us all. The future’s not bright, but every dystopia has a silver lining.

All hair, eyes and curves ...  


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