Friday, 9 May 2014

Divergent (2014) - ★★★½

Director: Neil Burger
Writers: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor (Screenplay), Veronica Roth (Novel)
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet

I've seen so many YA (young-adult) films in the past 6 years, that they're all starting to blend in together and fade out of my memory. I disliked almost every modern YA movie I've seen during this period of time, because they're more silly than entertaining, they're poorly acted, poorly written, poorly produced, and quite frankly, poor excuses for films. While there are a few exceptions, like The Hunger Games (2012), this whole genre, whether they be book or film, stinks to high heaven with a lack of originality.

Divergent is a silly film.  Yet, I find its characters are interesting, the cast is brilliant, the soundtrack is unique, the set-production/cinematography is good, and most importantly, it's consistently entertaining. These critiques alone make Divergent stand as one of the best YA films made in recent years.

It is set some time in the future, in a city surrounded by a wall which keeps the people separated from some unknown danger that lurks outside. Within this wall are 5 different groups of citizens. They are: farmers, scientists, athletic nut-jobs, diplomats/lawyers, and charitable/good people (they have special names for them, but I can't be bothered looking them up). However, there is a 6th group, called Divergent. A divergent is a person that doesn't fit into a particular group, for they can conquer their fears, and challenge the status quo... or something like that. We follow the story of a young-woman named Tris (Shailene Woodley), who happens to be a divergent. She is in grave danger, as she delves into a world of tough challenges and dark secrets.

Divergent never reaches greatness. Yet, somehow it managed to make me feel many great things. I think the number one greatest aspect of this film is that it had an impeccable cast, which I will get into later. It didn't feel half-assed, or stupid either. If there is anything that will hold this film back, it is that there's nothing in it that screams 'pop-culture icon.' There's nothing ground-breaking within it that will stay in my memory, or stand the test of time. Divergent will fade as years go by, and when it is mentioned, it will take me a while to remember it. All I can say is that it is very well made, and I found it very entertaining.

I loved the sound-track, which featured songs by Ellie Goulding and a nice, suitable score. That's something most YA films aren't great with, with the exception of Twilight (2008), which has one of the best sound-tracks I've heard.

The costumes and set-production submersed me in the world, which honestly doesn't seem too different from ours. There's also a bit of social commentary... but everything comes second to the leading romance.

Woodley and James have great chemistry... unlike Katniss and her love triangle in The Hunger Games.
My heart raced during the action sequences, and I felt the suspense as the plot thickened. Yet, for once I was most excited about the romance more than the dramatic storyline. Tris and her trainer/mentor, Four (Theo James), have great chemistry. The sparks fly instantaneously, and they maintain this excitement throughout the whole film. I think this is because Shailene Woodley and Theo James aren't just run-of-the-mill actors. They've done difficult roles before, and they thrive together in this setting. While I haven't read the books, I can honestly say that they picked the right actors for the screenplay.

Shailene Woodley is my favourite up and coming actress by far. While Jennifer Lawrence has given many impressive performances, I can't help but feel that Woodley shows a great deal more emotion, and genuine emotion at that. She brought her A-game to Divergent, and blew me away. I felt nervous with her at the start, and instantly connected to her character. As she grew her confidence and stood up for herself, I couldn't help but smile and laugh. When it comes to the sadness and tears, Woodley is among the best in Hollywood at expressing such powerful emotions. I was just so impressed with her, and the development of the leading character Tris. This is why I really enjoyed the film.

Oh... I enjoyed the film for another reason. Not only is Theo a good actor, he is damn fine! 

So I loved the main characters, the music, and the general look of the film. Divergent just needed one more thing to make it thoroughly entertaining, and that was a good villain... AND DAMN! Kate Winslet was flawless as the despicably ambitious Jeanine. I love Winslet in just about everything she does. Her role in Divergent is one of my favourites. She had a tone of voice, and a face that I just wanted to punch... yes, Winslet made me want to punch her, even though I love her so much. That's how good of an actress she is. There is a moment in the film, where she gets what is coming to her via a hard punch in the face. I remember exclaiming "YEAH!" when that happened. She brought a great deal of entertainment to the film.

I think Divergent is a film worthy of watching at least once. I on the other hand, enjoyed it so much that I may just watch it again. YA films aren't my cup of tea, but this one is a step up from the rest. It's certainly no Oscar contender, but it's a thoroughly entertaining popcorn movie.


  1. Great review and couldn't agree with you more. If Divergent was anything it was bloody entertaining, a fun time at the cinema yet a film I just didn't take very seriously. I easily prefer Shailene Woodley over Jennifer Lawrence, her performances in the Descendants and the Spectacular Now were nothing less than perfection. And yes, once again Kate Winslet never disappoints.

  2. Nice review you have here. Unfortunately, I still remain rather unimpressed with the trailer and I'm overall just not interested in seeing "Divergent", but I can understand overall why it would be liked. It just doesn't exactly look like my cup of tea.

    1. Remember, these films aren't my cup of tea either. Divergent could surprise you, like it did me ;)