Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Mekhi Phifer, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, Octavia Spencer, Ashley Judd, Zoë Kravitz
For the second weekend in a row, a female lead film topped the American box office. Insurgent, the sequel to the box office hit Divergent, picks up right where it left off. Adding a host of new characters including Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (Snowpiercer, The Help) and Oscar nominee Naomi Watts (Birdman, The Impossible), the sequel might offer less action than its predecessor, but it’s progression towards the unknown (behind the wall) and what happens next, that has me curious. Oscar winner Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic) returns as the villain, in her first sequel, while Watts is gas in the tank for the series. I didn’t even realize Watts was in the film until I saw her name on marketing materials, darkened hair for the role, I don’t think downplaying her character was coincidental.
Jeanine (Winslet) says the only way to achieve peace is through the faction system in place, resulting in so called harmony and social order that the Divergent’s want to destroy. Now fugitives after their attack on Dauntless, Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) seek refuge and shelter from the Amity faction led by Johanna (Spencer). When Jeanine sends her men to recover Tris for the purpose of opening a box hidden by Natalie Prior (Judd), she proves many will die unless there is compliance. Four regrettably relents the only way to defeat the Erudite and Dauntless traitors is join forces with the factionless, led by Evelyn (Watts). “I’m the lesser of the two evils,” she surmises from Four’s decision.
Worth its ticket price simply for the fleeting moments where Watts and Winslet come face to face.
It opens with a dream and a haircut, and does a fairly decent job at reiterating what factions are and who stands for what. There are so many technicalities, literal symbolism and depth to the story it’s often difficult to keep up. The sequel doesn’t offer much in the way of action sequences or thrilling zip line moments like the previous, however we get more character development with supporting characters Four and Peter (Teller), while Caleb (Elgort) and Evelyn set things up for the next installment. It’s not a particularly gripping second part, but it’s pretty admirable to see a film of this magnitude have so many powerful characters for women who are anything but just a love interest.
The script diverts pretty heavily from the books with new characters maintaining some suspense for those even familiar with story. The script holds things pretty close to the chest, keeping the most exciting and suspenseful moments to the very end; creating an urgency to see where the story develops from here. Director Robert Schwentke (Flightplan) takes over for Neil Burger and I think his insights are surprisingly more compelling (although let’s face it, the studios direct these films). The Divergent Series certainly isn’t opposed to killing off characters (good and bad) and therefore certainly feels edgier than the third Hunger Games installment. Tris is a more modern, self-loathing heroine compared to Katness, although both series based on books with female heroines are making money for the same studio. For me the film is worth its ticket price simply for the fleeting moments where Watts and Winslet come face to face, the “two evils” get to decide where this story goes next.
The inclusion of Naomi Watts generates a new curiosity for the continuing series.