Film Review: Insurgent

Insurgent Poster

Insurgent Plot Summary:

After being falsely accused for attacking the Abnegation faction, the Divergent Tris (Shailene Woodley) goes in hiding with fellow Dauntless members Peter (Miles Teller) and Four (Theo James), and her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort).  Meanwhile, corrupt Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) finds a box left over from the Abnegation faction that she believes will solve the Divergent problem, but she needs a Divergent to open it.  She declares all Divergents fugitives so she can find the right one.

This is my first foray into the world of Divergent, so if you’re a die hard fan, go easy on me.  I’ll cut right to the chase – it was okay.  In the world of young adult novel adaptations, it’s much better than Twilight, but not quite at the level of The Hunger Games.  Unlike Twilight, Divergent was blessed with a good cast (for the most part).  Otherwise, we’d have a serious problem, because Insurgent is a severely underwritten movie.  I’m not entirely shocked by this as one of the writers is Akiva Goldsman.  Yes, he’s done some good work (A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend), but he also wrote The Da Vinci Code movies (ewwwww).  Akiva’s main claim to shame though was being a credited writer on Batman & Robin, a shame he’ll have to endure forever.

Insurgent pic 1

The first half of Insurgent was rough.  It’s Cliché City.  Dystopian future.  Check.  Corrupt evil government.  Check.  “Chosen One” protagonist.  Check.  Seriously, come on!  Clichés can still work if they’re written well, but that’s not what we have here.  The dialogue sounds like it came out of a factory, completely generic and lazy.  Can someone at least try and say something interesting?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?

While the film is mostly on auto-pilot, there were some stand out moments that did wake me up.  Tris and crew find the rest of the Dauntless at Candor headquarters, the truth faction.  There’s a tense truth serum scene where Shailene Woodley is given a chance to act.  Just as Jennifer Lawrence carries her franchise, Woodley does the same here.  This character is Katniss Everdeen 2.0 – a cold tomboy with uber skills, but inside she’s an emotional wreck.  Woodley perfectly emulates the weight of the world in her face, and that’s really all the character needs to do.  While underwritten, Tris was an intriguing protagonist to follow because of Woodley’s performance.

The man who steals the show though was my boy Miles Teller, fresh off his excellent performance in Whiplash.  You want to talk about getting something out of nothing – it’s all Teller.  On paper, Peter’s dialogue isn’t much, but Teller is so damn charismatic and conniving as this character, he sells it hook, line, and sinker.  He’s constantly screwing with all the other characters.  Hopefully he won’t get over exposed, and even though I’m against the idea, if they ever do a young Han Solo movie, Teller would be my pick.

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Kate Winslet is also slumming it as the big bad evil government leader, Jeanine.  She’s not given much to work with, but she’s pretty sinister.  Winslet can act in her sleep at this point.  The other performance I enjoyed was Jai Courtney as Eric, Jeanine’s top operative.  This was encouraging as I haven’t been a big fan of Courtney in the past, but the fact he was able to shine here bodes well for Terminator Genisys and Suicide Squad.  In this role, he actually had a personality.  Those were the good performances.  Let’s get to the not so good ones.

First up, we got Theo James playing the beefy Four, Tris’ boyfriend.  Yawn.  James can now join the likes of Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) and Kellan Lutz (The Legend of Hercules) as boring, emotionless leading men.  Mint dental floss had more personality than Four.  It’s a shame, because Four really is a crucial character.  Then we got Tris’ brother Caleb, played by Ansel Elgort.  Caleb is nothing more than a wimpy, whiney throwaway character.  Now granted I didn’t see the first movie, but the relationship between Tris and Caleb was non-existent.  This needed more.

While most of the film is forgettable, it gets better as it goes along, and some good performances do save it.  For as cliché as Insurgent was, I do give it a lot of props for taking some unpredictable turns at the end.  The last thirty minutes are pretty solid, especially the simulation scenes, although they could have gone much further with the psychological implications, but it’s fairly paint by numbers, which is what most of this movie ultimately is.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly Better Than ‘Meh’)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.