Insurgent was going fine up until the final act, where a shocking truth is revealed. What is this truth? Oh, I wouldn’t dare mention it. But I will hint you. It’s a twist in the narrative so life-changing it made me think not of the twist, but of another unremarkable movie. The one with walls. And then I thought: Haven’t I already seen this?
Why yes, I have, and now I’m disappointed. Insurgent continues the story of Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), the hardy young girl with tattoos of birds on her chest (symbolising what, I don’t know), a heart as resilient as diamonds, and a love for the masculine hero so complete she entangles herself in that old Hollywood standard where self-sacrifice is a prerequisite to happiness. Gone are the days when I thought lines like “No one else is going to die because of me” actually meant something.
Beatrice, or Tris, is now on the run. She and her friends have been blamed for an attack on Abnegation, the faction of this new age Chicago that specialises in selflessness. They are, of course, being hunted by a terrible woman named Jeanine (Kate Winslet), leader of the intelligent Erudites, who is so smart she thinks she can rule the entire city based on what the contents of a little stolen box have to tell her.
This box, which Jeanine’s minions have forcefully recovered from Tris’ family home, can only be opened by Divergents, anomalies in the human system so spectacular they can’t belong to just any one faction. We have learnt from the previous movie that Tris is a Divergent. In this movie we will learn that she is the Divergent, just like Neo was the One and Katniss Everdeen was the rebel.
Tris is a good girl. She stands for truth, justice, non-violence, harmony. She prays for a world without factions, without Jeanine. What unfolds in this story is not much of anything, then, as Tris and her lover Four (Theo James) have to constantly outsmart and outmanoeuvre Jeanine as they travel from faction to faction, rallying crusaders to their cause. On the way they reunite with old friends, gain new ones, and sadly discard loyal comrades (one switches sides with such flimsy motivation I was left wondering his purpose in the whole shebang).
There is action and chases and shootings and death. And there is a peculiar device that looks like a holographic kitchen strainer that is used to determine if someone is a Divergent (it even tells you the percentage of Divergentness — no points for guessing how much Tris scores).
Insurgent is the second movie of the series — the third and final chapter will follow suit and arrive in theatres in two parts, one next year, the other in 2017. This leads me back to the twist, which reveals a shift so dramatic it could possibly change the face of these Divergent movies forever. But there are two problems I can see: 1) the twist recycles the twist of that other movie I mentioned that in itself was nothing to write home about, and 2) it effectively concludes the Divergent story as I know it. The ending of Insurgent closes a chapter instead of opening one for the final two parts. I cannot foresee how the plot will continue, let alone end. The story is over. I suppose this leaves room for surprises, but why play the surprise card when it was never in your deck to begin with?
There are some decent performances in this film. Woodley continues to persevere in the face of defeat. Winslet remains hardy and impenetrable. There is a part for Naomi Watts as Four’s unbelievable mother, who, even in the face of total annihilation, has time for eye shadow. Everyone takes this story with the utmost sincerity, sometimes maybe too seriously. They fail to see the humour of it all. It’s as if their lives depend on it.
Best Moment | None, really.
Worst Moment | The revelation of the twist.