AM At The Movies: ‘The Divergent Series: Insurgent’

Above: Shailene Woodley and Theo James star in 'The Divergent Series: Insurgent'
Above: Shailene Woodley and Theo James star in 'The Divergent Series: Insurgent'

The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Run time: 119 minutes

The middle film in a trilogy can be difficult to navigate.

When done properly, it can be better than the first and set the tone for the inevitable follow-up; a film where the characters gain greater depth and nuance, stories get deeper and more fleshed out. When done poorly, they can fall flat and feel like a cheap ploy to pull more dollars from the same narrative that worked the first time without advancing the character and their stories anywhere.

Insurgent, the follow-up to last year’s Divergent, is closer to being properly done than being poorly done.

Picking up where the last film left off, Insurgent follows Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) as they try to track down Jeanine (Winslet) and bring her push for power to a close in the wake of the violence that ended the previous film. You don’t have the opening quarter of the film spent introducing you to all the characters and setting up the world – if you’re watching Insurgent, it is expected that you already know how things ended up this way and why Tris and Four are hellbent on tracking down Jeanine.

While a lot of the film plays similar to the first installment, where the lead duo had the chance to off the calculating Erudite leader, but didn’t, there is character advancement for both and a major move forward in the overall story as well. You learn more about Four’s past which takes him from being the quiet, good looking guy and makes him a real person and Tris is forced to deal with some internal issues of her own that leads to further investment in the character; at least that’s the aim.

Woodley is terrific, not necessarily just in this role, but on the whole. Watching her give live and vitality to what could be a pretty flat, formulaic character, it’s obvious why everyone in the industry sees her as a force of nature in the future. There is a presence to her that transcends this role and jumps off the screen.

The biggest breakout performance in this film, however, belongs to Miles Teller, who returns as Peter and brings a snarky, “just shy of being a douche” approach to his role. Having watched him go toe-to-toe with J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (and be really good in a bunch of other things before that), you knew Teller could bring it, but this not only sets him up to be a fun sidekick in the next two films, but also gives you good feelings about his upcoming turn as Dr. Reed Richards in The Fantastic Four as well.

The Divergent Series is forever going to suffer from being in the shadow of The Hunger Games, which came out first and is the better of the two franchises. Jennifer Lawrence has already risen to become Hollywood’s darling, while Woodley is on her heels, but these films are never going to be able to close the distance on THG because it’s simply a better, more fully realized series.

But that doesn’t mean this flick and the series as a whole doesn’t deliver.

Insurgent is a quality young adult-aiming popcorn flick that even people outside of the target demo can enjoy and the next two films in the series should be the same.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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