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Divergent Series, The: Insurgent


Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Octavia Spencer, Zoe Kravitz, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, Naomi Watts, Keiynan Lonsdale, Daniel Dae Kim

Director: Robert Schwentke

Given that I am not the target audience for this best-seller-based dystopian/science fiction faction series, I was very pleasantly surprised by this action-packed but unexpectedly intriguing sequel to 2014’s Divergent which continues Shailene Woodley’s flight and fight to find out about her past which has left her and boyfriend and fellow Divergent fugitive Theo James in danger and on the run from evil Erudite leader Kate Winslet.

Director Robert Schwentke (taking over from Divergent’s Neil Burger) offers a gripping blend of action-adventure science fiction and diabolical dystopia (his visualization of a post-apocalyptic Chicago is powerful and would almost certainly have worried Al Capone with its unforgiving bleakness) kicks off fast with Woodley and James fleeing through the woods, along with her brother Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller. After a brief respite in the woods with the people of the nature-loving Amity faction and forced to go on the run again, Woodley and James are captured by Winslet’s men and she is subjected to terrifying mind-bending psychological torture…

What works particularly well is that knowledge of the first film in the series, while useful, isn’t an unbending requisite for enjoyment of Insurgent. A strong screenplay with few dramatic hiatuses keeps you watching and effectively provides a holding narrative of its own.

Schwentke creates telling tension and sees to it that suspense rarely relaxes, cleverly meshing the backstory into a strong action thriller, put across with excellent special effects and, notably, with holding performances from the key players.

Woodley comes across as a likeable and feisty heroine who will have fans cheering her on and winning new admirers, James is suitably hunky and resourceful and Teller, minus the drum set that helped him contribute to Oscar-winner J K Simmons’ triumph in Whiplash, also comes across strongly.

And, with an impressive American accent, Winslet creates a truly chilling conscience-free character who makes the average celluloid Wicked Witch resemble a sweet social worker and almost steals the show.

Insurgent leaves you satisfied and wanting more. And, serendipitously, there is one further film in the series to come.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne. Colour by deluxe.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 14 Mar 2015