Divergent (2014) – Film Review

Lead characters Tris and Four stand above a futuristic Chicago.Divergent

Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslett, Ashley Judd, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller

Directed by Neil Burger, based on the novel by Veronica Roth

IMDB Rating: 6.8

Review written by Rachel Geiger

Divergent is the film adaptation of the successful YA dystopian novel of the same name. Although frequently compared to other YA books of the same genre like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, this is a respectable story in its own right.

The film takes place in a futuristic dystopian Chicago where the society is divided into five different factions. These factions are Abnegation, (the selfless) Amity, (peaceful) Candor, (honest) Erudite, (intelligent) and Dauntless (the brave). Once the children reach the age of 16, they take a test that tells them which faction they should be in, then they must choose which faction they will be in for the rest of their lives. When taking the test, Beatrice (Woodley) learns that she is Divergent which means that she could belong in multiple factions. She also learns that being Divergent is extremely dangerous. Beatrice and her brother Caleb (Elgort) were born in Abnegation, but she chooses to be in Dauntless and her brother chooses Erudite. The film then follows Tris as she undergoes Dauntless training with the brave Four (Theo James).

I was a huge fan of the Divergent trilogy, reading all three of them in three days. However, I just got around to seeing the first film yesterday. The film did a good job at bringing the story to life as close to the book as possible. Divergent focuses on Tris as she finds her place in Dauntless. The story here is as developed as possible while also leaving room to explore this story even further in a second instalment.

One of my biggest complaints about the film is I personally think some of the casting was wrong. In a perfect world, Hollywood would cast actors and actresses that match the book exactly as described. Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. Despite this, there were still some notable performances here. Even though she isn’t who I predicted to play Tris, Shailene Woodley certainly has a breakout performance. We see her gradually transform into a quiet and reserved Abnegation girl to a brave member of Dauntless. Theo James was a really under the radar actor before this and he does an okay job as the intimidating Four. Personally, I wasn’t impressed because I think the character was lacking much development and that they worked up the mysterious angle too much, but he did an okay job overall. Kate Winslet plays the Erudite mastermind Jeanine who doesn’t get many scenes but this amazing actress still plays evil really well. Miles Teller does a nice job as the evil Peter. I’ve never seen him play a bad guy before so it’s a nice change of pace.

I think Neil Burger did a good job with directing Divergent. The film is supposed to bring to life the beautiful and complicated visuals that were suggested in the book. I believe this was captured well by Burger and audiences were able to see the city of Chicago in a different light. Burger chooses to focus and appeal to mostly a younger audience which is showcased in some of the subtle decisions made by the director.

I can’t help but watch this and instantly think about how it fails to match the unique book. On the other hand, it’s still a fascinating film due to the performances and how close they stay to the general story. What I love about Divergent is how it revolves around personalities and psychology, something that even The Hunger Games doesn’t hit to this degree. Divergent isn’t for everybody, but it’s still intriguing and filled with action that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats the whole time.

If you like Divergent, check out Will’s review of Insurgent!

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