Bob Dylan was 23 when he sang “And if my thought-dreams could be seen/They'd probably put my head in a guillotine.” T.S. Eliot was 27 when he talked of J. Alfred Prufrock being formulated in a phrase. There was also the great youth anthem of the 70s, Pink Floyd’s ‘We Don’t need no Education’ from The Wall. Divergent is equally young with all the aching beauty of the youth — as a character comments “there is a beauty in rebellion.”
Based on Veronica Roth’s bestselling novel, Divergent checks out all the mandatory young adult boxes—love and loss, growing up, peer groups (faction before family) identity and authority. Incidentally, Roth was 23 when the book came out in 2011. The protagonist, Tris Prior, is 16, a young woman on the cusp of adulthood. In a post-apocalyptic Chicago, the city is divided into five factions depending on a person’s characteristics—Abnegation (selfless), Amity (happy), Erudite (intelligent), Candor (truthful) and Dauntless (brave). At 16, people have to choose their faction which becomes their family. There are two kinds people who don’t fit into any of the factions. One are the factionless who fail the initiation or thrown out of their faction and the others are Divergents, who cannot be formulated in a faction. Tris discovers she is the latter.
It is dangerous to be Divergent as Tris realises and as she undergoes the brutal training and initiation at her chosen faction, Dauntless, she uncovers a sinister plot. She also discovers she has feelings for her dude instructor, Four. The movie follows the book fairly closely—it is not as grim or violent.
Neil Burger who directed Limitless has created an engaging film, which while faithful to the source material can stand on its own. That it speaks one-on-one to all conspiracy theorists is an added bonus.
The sets look out of a Philip K. Dick novel where everything is much the same except for the little differences and that huge beached ship. The jumping on and off trains gives an unbelievable adrenaline rush.
Shailene Woodley makes for a substantial Tris while Theo James is a dreamy Four—he was Lady Mary’s Pamuk in Downton Abbey. Jai Courtney is the smarmy evil Eric. Ashley Judd, who we haven’t seen forever, makes a welcome return to the big screen as Tris’ mother. Maggie Q plays Tori who runs the test for a The lovely Kate Winslet makes for a glacial Jeanine Matthews, the Erudite leader up to no good. Music by Junkie XL is young and trippy.
The sequel based on Roth’s Insurgent is already in the works. And all is well with the world. Maybe to be truly Divergent, Roth shouldn’t have written a trilogy!
Genre: Sci fi/Young adult
Director: Neil Burger
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Ashley Judd, Maggie Q
Story: Tris Prior has to get out of her box to save the world
Bottomline: Malory Towers in dystopian Chicago