Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sensuality, pervasive violence, intense action, mature themes and brief profanity
Running time: 119 minutes
Distributor: Lions Gate Films
“Insurgent” is the second in the action-oriented series of screen adaptations based on Veronica Roth’s blockbuster Divergent trilogy. This installment represents a rarity for a cinematic sequel in that it’s actually better than the first episode.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the franchise’s basic premise, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi is set amidst the crumbling ruins of a walled-in Chicago where what’s left of humanity has been strictly divided into five factions based on personality types, namely, Abnegation (the selfless); Amity (the peaceful); Candor (the honest); Dauntless (the brave); and Erudite (the intelligent).
Our intrepid heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley) was deemed a threat to society after testing positive for several of the aforementioned qualities since that makes her a Divergent, one of the handful of nonconformists whose minds the government cannot control. Consequently, the headstrong rebel ended up orphaned and roaming the streets with fellow faction-less rogues by the end of the original.
Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off, though upping the ante in terms of intensity and visually-captivating special f/x. At the point of departure, we find Tris on the run with her boyfriend Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and the duplicitous Peter Hayes (Miles Teller). The fugitives are being sought by Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the monomaniacal Erudite leader who has seized control of the city by commandeering the Dauntless warrior class.
The Machiavellian despot has declared martial law until all threats to her power have been neutralized. Meanwhile, Tris and company proceed to elude apprehension as they search for a sacred talisman supposedly hidden somewhere by her late mom (Ashley Judd).
The ancient artifact is rumored to contain an important message from Chicago’s founding fathers. However, the box can only be accessed by a Divergent who succeeds at surviving an ordeal testing for all five of the commonwealth’s designated virtues. Sure, it’s obvious that Tris is bright, fearless and altruistic. But she could perish in the process of attempting to prove herself a pacifist and truthful, too.
Fans of the source material will undoubtedly be surprised by this complicated box challenge which wasn’t in the book. Nevertheless, the seamlessly-interwoven plot device works in terms of ratcheting up the tension.
The film features an A-list supporting cast that includes Oscar-winners Kate Winslet and Octavia Spencer and nominee Naomi Watts, along with effective performances on the part of Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz and Miles Teller. Still, make no mistake. “Insurgent” is a Shailene Woodley vehicle from beginning to end.
And the rising young star exhibits an impressive acting range in a physically as well as emotionally-demanding role promising to do for her what “The Hunger Games” did for Jennifer Lawrence.