3 Stars — Intense

The second of four films in the Divergent series, Insurgent continues to tell an engaging tale. Based on a trilogy of books written by Veronica Roth, this second film diverges from both the director and writing team of the first film. Choosing Robert Schwentke (Red) to direct and allowing the team of Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback to create the adapted screenplay, the feel of this film shifts slightly from science fiction to more of an action film. But the intriguing premise continues to be its strength.

Based on the story of a city in the future that is surrounded by protective walls, the social experiment established by “the Founders” continues. Having been divided as a population into five factions (“erudite” who are in power, “dauntless,” “candor,” “abnegation” and “amity”) in order to create peace, the people have begun to war against one another after 200 years of order. It becomes clear that not everyone fits within these five personality types, as there are those who rebel and reject all factions or “factionless,” as well as those who are “divergent” and able to fit into more than one faction. Both are a threat to the strict social order of the factions.

The young divergent introduced in the first film is Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley). Continuing to fight by her side is her lover and protector, Four (Theo James). Having fled after being accused of leading an attack against one of the factions, Tris and Four are living outside the city as this second film begins.

Continuing her ruthless plans to rule over all the factions, Mayor Jeanine (Kate Winslet) gains control of a special box left by the Founders that can only be opened by a person who is so divergent that they are able to function in all five of the personality factions. As is predictable in such a tale, Jeanine’s evil plot eventually depends upon Tris to use her uniquely divergent abilities to open the box and gain the information needed for the next season of their social order.

Although we won’t spoil the tale, the issues presented form a fascinating study of humanity. Increasingly capable of defining individuals by personality traits, one could easily think that somehow an individual trait defines a person. This is not true, and the film explores how a true leader will be someone who possesses all the positive traits and can function in all parts of society. Rather than conforming to a limited view of the optimum human being or society, this person would diverge and therefore threaten those who want to control them.

In a similar way, the film presents Tris not only as this ultimate human being able to function in all five areas, but also as a person willing to lay down her life for others. As a “Christ-figure,” her decisions to show mercy and find forgiveness present a compelling foundation upon which the next book, being made into two films, can build.

It does seem to be true that when authoritarian control is too pervasive or becomes destructive, the natural response of humanity is to form an “insurgence.” In an insurgence, there is the danger of replacing one evil with another, as personified by Evelyn (Naomi Watts) in her opposition of Jeanine. But an insurgence can also make possible achieving an ideal that releases human beings from whatever walls or social systems hold them back.

The question to be answered in the coming films is foundational: Can evil be thwarted and ideals be achieved or will the whole desperate cycle begin again? We look forward to the answer that the Divergent series will provide.


» If you have taken a personality test, did you find the results freeing or inhibiting? Did it change your view of yourself or did it affect who you are becoming? Why or why not?

» The thought that we could be only one type of person creates a stereotypical or even prejudiced view of a person. Do you find complexity of personality to be more accurate even if less definable? How does your view impact your life?

» The nightmares that Tris experiences are similar to the simulations that are used to define a person’s personality. How do you think our dreams and nightmares are formative to who we are and who we become? Why do you answer as you do?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.