Sunday 22 March 2015

Film Review: Insurgent

Insurgent is the eagerly-awaited inevitable sequel to 2014's mediocre YA adaptation, Divergent. Based on a trilogy of popular young adult novels by Veronica Roth, this latest Hunger Games wannabe sports a hot young cast and is loaded with spectacle - and, believe it or not, actually improves upon the muddled first entry. 

Insurgent is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where society has been carved up into five distinct factions that group people by their defining character virtues - truth, knowledge, bravery, selflessness and peacefulness. In the first film, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), learns that she is a 'divergent', or someone who doesn't adhere to this system by displaying more than one virtue. This makes her a threat to those in charge and, after foiling a plot by Erudite (the intelligent) to destroy Abnegation (the selfless), she flees the city to escape the clutches of the evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet).

This time around, Tris along with her friends, Four (Theo James) and Peter (Miles Teller), and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) seek sanctuary from Janine with the peaceful Amity faction. Hot on their heels is henchman Eric (Jai Courtney) and it isn't long before the group realise that the only way to prevent the brewing conflict is to face Janine head-on.

Having not read the books, I can't attest to how much or little is omitted from the source. To me at least, it didn't feel as though there were vast chunks of plot missing. Some characters like Four's father, Marcus (Ray Stevenson), Tori (Maggie Q) and Christina (Zoe Kravitz) are reintroduced and promptly sidelined, presumably because they come into play later on. This is a bit of a flaw as I'm guessing they're around more in the book but only serve to make the film feel crowded at times.

Standing out from amongst this crowd is Shailene Woodley as the feisty and courageous Tris. Whilst the rest of the cast comes across as one-dimensional (Ansel Elgort) wooden (Theo James) Tris is provided a great arc through Insurgent and Woodley really comes into her own, especially during the second half of the movie.

In fact, Woodley outshines her more experienced co-stars like Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts. The former makes a great baddie but isn't allowed to do much else other than stand around barking orders and generally being a bitch whilst Watts could've been afforded a little more depth and presence as Evelyn, Four's mother.

Miles Teller provides the bulk of the laughs as serial glory-hunter Peter. His constant flip-flopping and Teller's natural charisma make for some great comedy moments.

The first half sees the characters dart around a lot, but it didn't feel unfocused or messy - it was simply driving the plot forward and moving the characters to where they needed to be come the end. A few decisions from supporting characters like Caleb and Peter didn't appear natural however - more like they're just doing it because it says so in the script. That being said, I really liked the set-up for the final half of the film. There's a big mystery core to Insurgent's plot ("what's in the box?!") that ties the whole thing together nicely.

The film is also jam-packed with action set-pieces and gun fights. It's more action than I remember from the first film (or Mockigjay Part 1 for that matter) and, for the most part, it works. The VFX aren't amazing but the direction is slick and not excessively choppy.

Insurgent steers the series even deeper into the realm of high-concept science-fiction. It's further removed from reality than its other YA counterparts and it both benefits and suffers from this - on the one hand, it's slowly carving out its own distinct tone and voice. It's far-fetched, but not yet jumped the shark. On the other hand, any sense of impactful political commentary is diluted by the implausibility of it all - a series like The Hunger Games feels a lot more relevant and grounded in 2015 to something like Insurgent.

As a whole, The Divergent series isn't essential viewing, but Insurgent takes it one step closer to being a distinct and worthwhile entry into the YA genre. I'm not going to recommend you rush out and see it right away, but I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie.

The Verdict: 6/10

Edgier and more action-packed that its predecessor, Insurgent ups the ante by plunging further still into the depths of science-fiction. Tris aside, the characters aren't fleshed out and the dialogue isn't up to scratch - but the confident lead performance from Woodley and sharp action set-pieces are enough to excite fans and non-book readers alike.


  1. Great review :) I missed the first film and just haven't brought myself to catch up yet! I might just wait until all 3 (I;m guessing? Unless they do a Hunger Games?) are out and watch them all together!
    - Allie

    1. Nope, they're doing a Hunger Games! Don't expect this series to wrap up until March 2017 haha. If you can wait that long sure, but I suggest catching up now - it's only two movies! :)

  2. I hated the first movie, but I'll probably have to see this...since I already saw the first one and feel compelled to finish things I start, so I'm glad that this sounds a bit better. Nice review :-D

    1. I felt the same way but was surprised by how much I actually liked this one :) Looking forward to hearing your thoughts mate :)



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