Name this film. Somewhere in the post-apocalyptic future, a select batch of youngsters is put through life-threatening challenges as part of the rigid designs of a controlling society. But one teenage girl dares to defy the system and rebels against the government. You’re thinking The Hunger Games, aren’t you? Actually that’s the plot of Divergent, a sort of Coke Lite version of the Jennifer Lawrence-starring blockbuster franchise.
Based on a best-selling young adult book series by Veronica Roth, Divergent is set in a world ravaged by war but whose people have survived, only to be split according to their personalities into five factions – intelligent, peace-loving, brave, honest, and selfless. If you’re wondering what happens to those who have more than one of those personality traits, they’re labeled Divergent… and it’s not a good thing, as it implies non-conformity in a fascist society.
Our heroine Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) discovers early on that she’s Divergent, but is warned not to reveal this to anyone, lest she is hunted down by a supposedly sinister ministry, led by Kate Winslet‘s Jeanine. Director Neil Burger delivers a cocktail of action, romance and political plotting, but it all feels over-familiar and surprisingly dull. There are only a few instances of tension or thrills, and Winslet‘s villain poses little or no threat, thereby robbing the film of any urgency whatsoever.
Blessed with a natural presence and lots of charisma, Woodley makes for a worthy leading lady, while Theo James broods and smolders in all the right ways as her trainer and love interest. But the film’s bland execution and its muddled message make it hard for you to connect with it. I’m going with two out of five for Divergent. There’s a nice set piece, one in which Tris zip lines across the entire city. It’s the best bit in this over-long film.