Review - Insurgent

Insurgent (2015), PG-13, 119 minutes - The second film in the Divergent series (adapted from author Veronica Roth's trilogy of YA novels), as well as the second of my most anticipated films of 2015 to be released, Insurgent is part The Matrix (visual effects and action sequences), and part The Hunger Games (efforts of the oppressed/persecuted to overthrow a corrupt government) but manages to stay unique enough to differentiate itself in the vast sea of YA film adaptations we have seen in recent years.

Insurgent picks up within days of the events at the end of Divergent with Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and Four's father Marcus (Ray Stevenson) seeking refuge with the Amity faction just outside the city walls.  They are being hunted by Eric (Jai Courtney), Max (Mekhi Phifer) and their forces under Erudite leader Jeanine's (Kate Winslet) commands.  She has come to possess a locked box containing a message from the society's founders that can only be opened by someone with the ability to pass the initiation simulation of each of the five factions.  In other words, a Divergent.  While on the run from Jeanine's minions, Tris and Four find themselves, in hiding with the Factionless (led by Four's previously believed to be dead mother Evelyn), and on trial with the Candor, who had provided asylum for the Dauntless that hadn't joined the Erudite cause.  Despite varying levels of trust, the Factionless and Dauntless ally to help Four provide Tris the time to unlock the founders' message and overthrow the Erudite.  The story is far from over though, as the final installment of the trilogy of novels (Allegiant) will be adapted by two films.  One next year and the second in 2017.

Insurgent does a decent job of advancing the seires while providing some closure to what came before.  Woodley's maturation of Tris into an outwardly strong, yet internally conflicted woman is well done.  She still acts rashly at times, a result of wearing her emotions on her sleeves (a point that Peter points out to Jeanine as a weakness).  Tris' character development is the strongest part of these films.  James, Teller, and Elgort also shed light on the ramifications of their character's actions.  Actions that don't always sit well with friends or loved ones.  Naomi Watts (Evelyn), Daniel Dae Kim (Jack Kang), and Octavia Spencer (Johanna) add familiar faces to the cast, a couple of which should help shape things to come in the Allegiant films.

Being the second of four installments, Insurgent struggles a bit as a stand alone film.  It does begin with an Erudite propaganda piece that provides a decent summary of the events of last year's Divergent, but it doesn't quite do the story justice in regards to the development the characters have already experienced.  For anyone not previously familiar with the series I would definitely recommend starting at the beginning of the franchise.  Whether that's reading the books, just watching the movies, or both is up to you!  I do think that most fans of Veronica Roth's trilogy will be happy with Insurgent.  So far I've enjoyed the series in both formats, and am very curious to see how they handle splitting and adapting Allegiant.


 A couple changes made from the book to the film: in the book, Jeanine tries repeatedly to come up with a simulation that can control Tris and the message from the founders is recovered from Erudite computers, whereas in the film she uses Tris' Divergent abilities to try and unlock the message.  I don't mind this change, it works well for the story being told.  In the book, Jeanine dies at the hands of Tori (Maggie Q) as opposed to Evelyn.  Otherwise, from what I remember, the film keeps relatively close to the book, although they did gloss over some of the trust issues between Tris and Four a bit in the film.

- I'm not sure that I like the trend of splitting the last installment of a series of novels into two films.  I'm not convinced that it is necessary from a storytelling standpoint, but  really I can't argue with the box office success of the franchises that have done it previously.

- Ashley Judd (Tris' mother Natalie) makes an appearance in one of Tris' simulations.  She died in Divergent trying to help Tris escape the simulation controlled Dauntless attack.

- If I had to guess how Allegiant may be split, I'd think that Part 1 would deal with the vacuum left in leadership at the end of Insurgent and the struggle to fill that void and Part 2 may then deal more with what lies beyond the walls.  Of course that is just a guess. 


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