Set in a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into five factions that each represent a different virtue, teenagers have to decide if they want to stay in their faction or switch to another - for the rest of their lives. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) makes a choice that surprises everyone. Then Tris and her fellow faction-members have to live through a highly competitive initiation process to live out the choice they have made. They must undergo extreme physical and intense psychological tests that transform them all. But Tris has a secret that she is Divergent - she doesn't fit into any group. If anyone knew, it would mean a certain death. As she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, this secret might help her save the people she loves... or it might destroy her.
Review by Louise Keller:
Totalitarianism versus the individual is the basic concept of Divergent, a thrilling sci-fi adventure that is every bit as good as The Hunger Games with a dash of The Matrix added for good measure.
In a career-making role, Shailene Woodley carries the hopes of this latest franchise on her athletic frame, treading a similar path to that of Jennifer Lawrence when she faced the world as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Woodley has an appealing vulnerable quality - she is attractive yet not beautiful, with a slightly bemused expression reminiscent of a young Joan Fontaine. You may remember her from Alexander Payne's The Descendents, in which she played George Clooney's daughter - although she has been acting in television shows since the tender age of 9. This adaptation of Veronica Roth's bestselling debut novel Divergent, the first in the trilogy, is sure to attract the attention of the same target market that delighted in The Hunger Games and Twilight.
Neil Burger's effective direction brings the futuristic Chicago reality to life, allowing us to immediately grasp the wall-bound society, whose division into five factions is in the interests of peace. Trust yourself, Beatrice's (Woodley) mother Natalie (Ashley Judd) tells her prior to the personality test in which her automatic responses are determined through a hallucinogen drug. Is she best suited to the factions of Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity or Candor?
Embracing freedom and risk-taking, Beatrice (or Tris, as she now calls herself) leaps from a speeding train, which takes her from Abnegation (the faction known for selflessness) to the training school for Dauntless (for the fearless), as her new life begins. Maggie Q's tattoo artist Tori, who has determined Tris is a Divergent and therefore does not fit into any of the categories, has warned she must keep the information secret and that Divergents are considered a threat to the authorities.
The story begins to take shape as Tris undergoes a gruelling 10 week physical and mental training, her life constantly under threat. Knives are thrown, deadly war games played, and there is a death defying flying fox to conquer. All eyes are on her handsome instructor Number Four (Theo James, from Downton Abbey), who takes a close interest in Tris. The chemistry between Woodley and James is apparent from the outset; James has charisma and a quiet masculine strength that counters Woodley's vulnerabilities. The sequences in which they share the ultimate intimacy, sharing each other's brain function by chemical means, as they are confronted by their worst fears, deliver some of the film's best moments.
Kate Winslet is terrific as the villainous, ice-cool blonde whose focus is to shift control from Abnegation to Erudite. The other supporting cast is excellent including Zoë Kravitz (Lenny's daughter) as the feisty Christina and Miles Teller as the sadistic Peter. But the film belongs to Woodley who not only appears in almost every scene, but wins our hearts from the outset by her integrity, determination and her mantra to never give up.
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CAST: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn
PRODUCER: Lucy Fisher, Pouya Shabazian, Douglas Wick
DIRECTOR: Neil Burger
SCRIPT: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor (novel by Veronica Roth)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alwin H. Kuchler
EDITOR: Richard Francis-Bruce, Nancy Richardson
MUSIC: Junkie XL
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andy Nicholson
RUNNING TIME: 139 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 10, 2014