From the creator of sci-fi thriller Limitless and period drama The Illusionist, comes Divergent, an adaptation of the YA novel by Veronica Roth. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, as has been the trend in recent years, this society is divided into five factions: Amnesty (happy people), Candor (the eternally honest), Erudite (knowledge seekers), Abnegation (selfless) and Dauntless (the fearless). A young woman named Tris (Shailene Woodley), fights against the structure of her world when she learns that, as a Divergent, she doesn’t fit into any of these five factions.
Unfortunately, this film fits perfectly into its cookie-cutter mold. At its core, Divergent is a coming of age story about a young woman truly finding herself. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the message to be yourself is all but presented in bright flashing letters at the bottom of the screen. The irony of this film promoting individualism, whilst giving the audience a case of déjà vu for films gone by (The Hunger Games, Twilight, I Am Legend anyone?), should be lost on no one.
While Woodley gives a phenomenal performance, delivering the dead pan sarcasm of her character flawlessly and truly engaging the audience in Tris’s pain, it can’t make up for the predictability of the story. The antagonist is clearly the system itself (and its representatives), but the story arch seamlessly hits the stages of every other “find yourself” flick there is. Girl steps outside comfort zone, wonders if she’s made the right choice, is encountered with obstacles, overcomes them, somewhere along the way a boy enters the picture. Even the romance is lacking, as there is very little about Four (Theo James) that convinces of his love for Tris. James adequately portrays Four’s tough exterior and makes him likeable as someone who would probably do the right thing, but that’s about as far as the character goes.
The news isn’t all bad though. There are some good laughs to be had in an otherwise solemn action flick, and the cast gets an all around A+. Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd play Tris’ parents and Abnegation natives in performances that bring depth and love to their characters. On the other side, Kate Winslet and Jai Courtney round out the “bad guys” as Jeanine and Eric. While this certainly isn’t the highlight of Winslet’s career, she does a reasonable job of making you question her motives, and Courtney does his character justice by ensuring the audience fully supports the idea of punching him in the face throughout the entire film.
In all, this film is worth seeing purely for the performance from Woodley and the rest of the cast. The story line is overfamiliar and doesn’t exactly flow seamlessly, but there are brief moments of the individualism the film promotes. I can’t stress my love for Woodley enough in this role, and any fans of hers will surely like the film, if only for her sake. If you’re not sure, see it and see if she wins you over too.
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10