New in the Theaters: "Insurgent" is a Two-Woman Show

The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015)

Director: Robert Schwentke

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts

Action, adventure, sci-fi

119 minutes

Insurgent continues straight from where Divergent ended. Tris and her friends are taking refuge among the Amity, hiding from the evil Erudite leader Jeanine. She has destroyed the world as they've known it in search for the Divergents, who she's convinced are a threat to their society's building block: the faction system based on people's characteristics. In a fight against Jeanine and her army, Tris lost her parents and had to kill her friend, and all these deaths surrounding her now start to take their toll. Tris is suffering from nightmares and is convinced that everyone who comes close to her will eventually die. At the same time, Jeanine is determined to find out the ”ultimate” Divergent, someone who is capable of passing the ”sims” of every faction, and will thus be the only one able to open a mystery box that she believes to contain information on how to destroy the Divergents. Of course, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this special Divergent could be none other than Tris. Thus, she ends up with the ultimate dilemma: will she surrender herself to Jeanine, or risk her friends dying while hiding. And what information does the mystery box really contain?

I feel like I'm repeating myself. A year ago I reviewed the first part of the movie series, Divergent, and said that the film was worth seeing mainly because of Shailene Woodley, and I have to say that the same holds true in the sequel as well. Woodley is as fresh as ever as Tris Prior and the way she portrays Tris's inner battle between her insecure, sensitive teenage self and a badass heroine trying to save the world and, most importantly, her loved ones from Jeanine (Winslet) is very believable. However, Insurgent is not a one-woman show but rather a two-woman one, since the best moments are those with Woodley and Winslet together. Winslet is a remarkable actress and even in a fairly dull franchise movie like this, she manages to make her character complex and at times we get a feeling that maybe Tris is more important to Jeanine than she wishes to admit. Watts is not too bad either as Four's long lost mother, although her charisma comes nowhere close to Winslet's. Still, how very refreshing it is that we are finally getting films in which women are the most important and interesting characters!

As for the men, Theo James as Four seems to be there only for the teenage girls in the audience to drool over and Ansel Elgort could do so much better as Tris's traitor brother. The only truly interesting male character is Tris's frenemy Peter, who doesn't seem to know himself whose side he wants to be on. Miles Teller, known from Whiplash, does an amazing job making us both love and hate Peter at the same time and bringing the only even remotely funny moments into the film with his smug and sarcastic energy.

Plot-wise, there is a lot more happening in Insurgent than in Divergent, although the screenplay is quite different compared to the book. Unfortunately, most of the time, it is action, and only action, that takes the plot forward. I'm not the most sensitive movie goer, but for me, there was way too much violence in this film – especially considering that its target audience is teenagers/young adults and its rated PG-13. True, there is a lot of violence in the novel and in Divergent, too, and after Hunger Games we should probably be used to these kinds of violent dystopian depictions, but I wonder if all the violence really is necessary? A bit less would probably be more in this case, too. In short, if you're very sensitive to violence, you'll be covering your eyes for the most part of this film.

The good thing in the film is, apart from Woodley, Winslet and Teller, that at least the special effects look great. But you still cannot help but roll your eyes in the ever-so-stereotypical scenes, such as the one where Tris takes up scissors and cuts her long hair short. Even if she does look kind of cool and badass as a result. And why on earth have the Amity been dressed up like the Amish? If some of these sillinesses were replaced with some new and fresh ideas, Insurgent might not be half bad.