WRITTEN BY: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor
DIRECTED BY: Neil Burger
STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller
RATING: 3.5 stars
Divergent looks set to appeal to fans of the novels and general film lovers. Like The Hunger Games series – as opposed to fellow teen franchise, the Twilight series – Divergent could also easily appeal to male audiences, as well as females. Although the protagonist is a teenage girl, most of the characters of all sexes are presented as tough, strong and independent people. The sets and costumes also serve to create the world effectively. At two and a half hours, the film is perhaps a little too long and drags as it explains the set-up, but once it gets going, the film is a thrilling experience.
Based on Veronica Roth's novel, Divergent is set in futuristic Chicago where the city is surrounded by walls and the people live in factions based on their personalities. Dauntless protects the republic, Abnegation are public servants who feed the poor, Erudite works on technology and science, Amity does farming, and Candor believe in justice. At the age of 16, everyone must decide which faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives, and if they choose a faction that is different to their family, they cannot associate with them again. Most stick with the community they grew up in, but some switch to factions that better reflect their personalities. They are helped in making the decision by a test. But Beatrice "Tris" Prior (Shailene Woodley) is a "Divergent" and does not fit into just one faction. She chooses Dauntless over Abnegation, where she grew up, but must keep her secret of being a Divergent for her own safety. During her probation, Tris becomes drawn to her fighting trainer, Four (Theo James), who harbours his own secrets.
Woodley has been winning over critics with independent films like The Descendants and The Spectacular Now, but Divergent is her first mainstream Hollywood film. She has great presence and is believable in the role. Woodley also has great chemistry with her love interest, James, who oozes sex appeal that will certainly make teenage girls – and women – swoon. The supporting cast includes Kate Winslet in a very different role for her as a villain, Jai Courtney as a mean instructor, Ashley Judd as Tris' mum, Zoe Kravitz who impresses as Tris' friend and Miles Teller as a frenemy.
Divergent is an action-packed film with the right amount of romance to balance out the drama. I am keen to see a sequel.