This second installment of the Divergent series has a few things going for it. First off, and maybe most importantly, Shailene Woodley returns and she returns with a little bit more swagger than she possessed in the original film, Divergent. Insurgent is adapted from the second of Veronica Roth's three YA novels by a trio of writers - Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), Mark Bomback (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), and Brian Duffield.
The film kicks off in high gear with Tris (Woodley), Four (Theo James), and their band of brothers and sisters in spirit running away from the ruins of a not too far in the future Chicago. Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the now obviously evil leader, is rounding up Divergents in an effort to locate one with a certain, special gift that she desperately needs to obtain. Tris and Four take shelter amongst four of the nation's fractions and, as part of this journey, new characters are introduced played by the likes of Octavia Spencer, Daniel Dae Kim, and Naomi Watts. As is not exactly rate for a middle film, Insurgent spends a considerable amount of time with exposition and in preparing both characters and audience for what's about to come. As seems to be the trend these days, Roth's final book in the trilogy will be divided into two films.
There is a twist, known to readers of the novels, but likely to be a wee bit of a surprise for the film's more casual moviegoers. It may very well also be handy to have familiarity with the original film as director Robert Schwentke (Flightplan, RED), taking over for Neil Burger, doesn't worry so much with catching newcomers up to the storyline.
Insurgent can be seen in both 2-D and 3-D, and while I've heard of some folks being impressed enough with the 3-D version to warrant those extra bucks, I'd render the extra expense unnecessary. Oh sure, the film has some cool special effects but they come off just fine in 2-D and, at least in my opinion, 2-D works better with the film's more emotionally resonant scenes.
There's nothing brilliant here. I'm aware of at least one fellow critic who seems to prefer the Divergent films to their cinematic siblings, The Hunger Games films. So be it. For my buck, the Divergent films are entertaining enough but lack the dramatic impact and more satisfying performances of the films in The Hunger Games series. While Woodley is good here, and she almost singlehandedly makes the film worth watching, too much of the film feels like pretty people doing pretty things for pretty good reasons.
It's not good. It's not bad. It just is.
Ansel Elgort, as Tris's brother, is good once again and Miles Teller, relegated to an even lesser role, is still winning in what he's given to do. Winslet, not surprisingly, adds a complexity and multiple layers to the role of Jeanine.
Insurgent is a bit more action-packed than its predecessor and the action is ultimately more satisfying despite a noticeably increased body count. The film entertains on a more consistent level than its predecessor, not by much, but enough to make it worth your while if you're looking for a fairly safe and light action flick for the whole family.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic