March 18, 2015
"Insurgent" picks up right where the first film of this series "Divergent" left off. The tense peace inside the walls of dystopian Chicago is shattered when the Abnegation faction was invaded and destroyed. Tris and Four are rebels on the run, seeking refuge among the other factions. Ruthless Erudite leader Jeanine needs a perfect Divergent in order to unlock a certain box which contains an important message about their current existence, which Jeanine wants to suppress. This special Divergent is, of course, is Tris.
The first film "Divergent" was a pretty good film interpretation of the book. I found this second film to be even better than the first film. I did not get to read the second book so I could not assess its faithfulness to the original material. We get to see better the rest of the other factions, like Amity (with Octavia Spencer as their leader Johanna), Candor (with Daniel Dae Kim as their leader Jack Kang), and the Factionless (with Naomi Watts as their leader Evelyn). I can see the same limitations of the first book here, especially with the unusual behavior and decisions of Tris. But hey, she is a special girl, the chosen one.
I thought Shailene Woodley did very well to play Tris, with her guilty conscience, disturbing nightmares and the reluctance as a heroine. Theo James though is less noticeable here than before, as Four is seemingly relegated to be Tris' consort in this installment. Ansel Elgort looked very ill at ease and awkward in his scenes as Tris' confused younger brother Caleb. Making more of an impact were Miles Teller as the snake-like turncoat Peter and Jai Courtney as the vicious Dauntless officer Eric. Kate Winslet owns every scene she is in with her strong screen presence.
A new director Robert Schwentke (known for previous mainstream hits like "Flightplan" and "RED") took over from Neil Burger (who directed "Divergent"). Schwentke guides us through the criss-crossing web of events, building up effectively to the climactic five Faction simulation that Tris had to hurdle. The simulations in this film looked more sophisticated and complicated, with over-the-top visual effects, especially in that exciting Dauntless "sim" where Tris had to rescue her mom from a burning house hurtling in the air.
This film is rated PG, but there are pretty intense violent scenes, including point-blank shooting of defenseless people, imperilled small kids, and a character pointing a gun directly at his temple. There was also a scene showing prolonged kissing between the leads, with clothes being removed. This had the young kids around me squirming uncomfortably, covering their eyes
I thought this film fully satisfied expectations for the second episode of this Victoria Roth book/film franchise. It was thematically and visually grand, with mind-blowing computer-generated action effects. It stands very well on its own, even if you have not yet seen the first film. It tells a complete story, with a defined resolution of events. It ends with a cliffhanger which makes you anticipate the next film. The last book in the series "Allegiant", in true Hollywood style, will again be split into two parts to make more money. Schwentke is already on board to direct Part 1, due out next year already. 8/10.