Review – Insurgent

Poster for 2015 young adult sequel Insurgent

Genre: Action
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 20th March 2015
Runtime: 119 minutes
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Bomback
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer
Synopsis: Living as fugitives outside of the faction system, Tris and her friends must continue to evade the capture of Erudite, who now rule the city.


With The Hunger Games bowing out of cinemas this winter, there is a vacancy about to open for the big dog in the young adult franchise yard. The Divergent franchise would love to take on that role as it continues to make a massive star of its charismatic lead Shailene Woodley. Its latest outing, Insurgent, is solid work, but it often feels too much like more of the same.

Note: There are some mild plot spoilers in this review.

Tris (Woodley), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and boyfriend Four (Theo James) are on the run from the ruling Erudite faction, with treacherous Peter (Miles Teller) in tow. They soon run into the intimidating ‘Factionless’ group, led by the mysterious Evelyn (Naomi Watts). Meanwhile, Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has discovered an artefact that could unlock the secrets of their society. Unfortunately for her, she needs a ‘divergent’ to open it.

Insurgent feels a little too familiar, right from the very start. It drops the audience right back into the action, with Tris and her fellow fugitives holed up under the hospitality of the Amity faction. Before long, they are running, jumping and shooting in a way that could just as easily have opened any Hunger Games movie or the sequel to The Maze Runner. It’s prime Young Adult 101 in a franchise that exemplifies the trend more than any other.

| "You are living proof that the ‘divergent’ problem has grown beyond all control."

Thankfully, Insurgent gets a massive lift from the presence of Shailene Woodley in the central role. As she has shown in roles as varied as The Fault in Our Stars and, more recently, White Bird in a Blizzard, Woodley is an actress of great maturity and range who is convincing even as the material falls to new lows of ridiculousness. By the time her friends and sibling have betrayed her for the umpteenth time, it stops being either shocking or interesting.

The adult cast continue to excel, with Kate Winslet making for a convincing ice queen and new addition Naomi Watts doing a solid job. Unfortunately, the strong female performances around him expose Theo James as a distinctly mediocre performer and Miles Teller can only be described as being on auto-pilot. There’s nothing of Whiplash here.

Insurgent does seek to separate itself from other young adult movies with a bombastic visual style. The sequences of simulation in the film’s final hour provide Woodley with a great canvas in which to work as director Robert Schwentke marshals some impressive effects work. After an incredibly slow second act, the visual treat of the simulations is enough to power the film through to its conclusion.

| "Factional law must be upheld."

By the time the credits roll on Insurgent, a series of intriguing, and game-changing developments have occurred to pave the way for Allegiant – the two-part franchise finale.

Often, though, it seems like the entirety of Insurgent is just treading water on the way to those developments, leaving behind a film that feels like an hour and a half of tropes with something original tacked on the end.


Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

On the evidence of Insurgent, the young adult boom has a little bit of life left in it.

Shailene Woodley is excellent as Tris, continuing to mark out YA fiction as a breeding ground for strong female roles. In fact, the adult female cast – notably Winsley and Watts – find plenty to do too.

There’s a lot of narrative dead weight and the middle section sags horribly, but Insurgent plays its hand expertly as it ends, setting up the pieces for a big franchise finale.


Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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