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MOVIE REVIEW: Divergent

DIVERGENT

DIRECTOR: Neil Burger

Shailene Woodley and Theo James star in Divergent. Credit: Summit Entertainment

CAST: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Maggie Qu, Kate Winslett

CLASSIFICATION: 13 V

RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes

RATING: ***

It may be totally predictable and just a tad overlong and overdone, but Divergent is a far better foray into YA territory than Vampire Academy, or even The Host.

It is a story aimed at teenagers about learning to forge their own identity, complete with tattoos for the hip kids and a climbing wall to die for – with an Ellie Goulding soundtrack. Director Burger (Limitless) said the English singer/ songwriter pretty much became the inner voice of his film heroine Tris.

Her sound helps to create this dystopian, post-apocalyptic near-future Chicago in which people have been divided into five factions, based on virtues (don’t interrogate it too closely).

Teenagers decide which faction they belong to after a psychological test and then stay in that group, determining their place in society and the rest of their lives. Beatrice Prior, or rather Tris (Woodley), as she renames herself, chooses Dauntless – a brave group which polices the rest – moving from the faction of her family, Abnegation (a selfless group which looks after the poor and factionless and runs the government).

She works hard at fitting in, but is a divergent – a person who doesn’t fit in. Her instructor Four (James) quickly realises she isn’t like the other children and warns her to keep it a secret. Soon they realise there is a sinister plot brewing which threatens the entire society. Cue a rushed ending after a long build-up, and then look out for Insurgent next year. The theme of Tris as a divergent with independent thought and therefore a threat to the government – which relies on conformity to control society – resonates with any teenager. The disappointing thing about the film is how a story which stresses individuality is so generic in its presentation of the characters .

The two leads try hard to play nuanced, thinking individuals, but everything happening in the background completely breaks down their effort. Think Hunger Games (oppressive society run by elites, and a heroine who doesn’t quite fit in). Pretty soon you start wondering if the film company cashing in on the YA scene isn’t just another faceless corporation dealing in conformity over individuality. Then again, this is a teen film. Throw in a hunky love interest with a dark secret, action sequences, and you’re good to go.

If you liked Hunger Games or Endless Love you will like this.

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