Well, my long wait is over. I reviewed the Divergent trilogy in books a while back just before the film hit the theaters. And now the film has just been released on video. I should say the first film, based on the first book.
Veronica Roth, the author of the trilogy, is listed as Executive Producer in the credits. I'm glad because the film closely follows the book.
Divergent is the story of Beatrice Pryor, a young woman, who like all students at her age is tested for which faction of five best fits her. Then they undergo a public choosing ceremony and basically can choose the one they want. She has been raised in the Abnegation faction, one of self effacement and helping others. Abnegation members spend very limited time in front of a mirror. To stand gazing at oneself would place more importance on self rather than others. Beatrice has been a good member of Abnegation, helping to feed the hungry and assisting the ill with her parents who are council members of their faction.
But when they are out and about she has watched the members of the Dauntless faction running through the streets, laughing, looking far more free than she is. Dauntless is the quasi-military faction - the one that polices their city.
Set in a post-war Chicago in which there is ample evidence of the horror of war, they are penned in the city with a huge wall. Lake Michigan is dried to the sandy bottom. There is little vegetation and few vehicles. For most people their only transportation is the old elevated train system. Dauntless members wait until it has started and run after it, bravely jumping aboard and jumping off while it is in full motion.
When Beatrice is tested, she shows aptitude for Abnegation and for Dauntless - something rarely seen in this world. Those whose test results show aptitude for more than one faction are called Divergent. They are weeded out and studied or destroyed as too dangerous for the dystopian system. Fortunately for Beatrice the person doing the testing is sympathetic and marks down Abnegation only on her test results. She tells Beatrice not to say anything to her parents or anyone else. She warns the frightened girl that she must not let anyone know she is divergent.
After her brother has chosen the Erudite faction (the intelligentsia) and shocked his parents, Beatrice chooses Dauntless, leaving them stunned. They both go immediately to their new faction, the motto of the society being "faction over family."
Thus begins a new life for Beatrice, who changes her name for Dauntless to Tris. Initiation and training is rough in this fighting faction. No exemptions are given for females. They live, train, and fight just like the men. For Tris especially it is a revelation that is not always pleasant.
Her trainer is Four, with whom she ultimately develops a special relationship.
I could go on and on, but need to get back to the movie. This is truly a filmed version of the book, no major plot differences or new characters thrown into the mix.
The film was shot in Chicago, the seedier parts, with CGI making it a partially ruined wasteland. Beyond the wall is where the food is grown to feed the citizens. Tended by the Amity faction, few people are allowed to leave the walls to go there. But it can be seen beyond the walls, the only green haven in view.
It boasts a wonderful cast. Shailene Woodley, who has been popping up in several recent movies since her wonderful work in George Clooney's film, The Descendants, plays Tris. She is a beautiful young woman who looks much too frail to be in Dauntless. But Tris' strength is her bravery not her physical power.
Theo James plays Four, Tris' trainer and ultimate love interest. Four has his own secrets and is a troubled young man with quite a history.
Kate Winslett plays Jenine, the coldly arrogant villain of the piece. It is Jenine who is responsible for ordering all Divergents to be reported and dealt with accordingly.
Jai Courtney plays Eric, the vicious leader of Dauntless, who can and does turn on his own faction members.
Tris' parents are played by Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd.
All of the cast does a wonderful job, following the characters as written, and adding to the richness of the story.
Divergent has abundant action scenes showing life from the Dauntless point of view.
If you don't like heights there are a couple of scenes that might get to you. Remember Dauntless members are brave to the point of uber recklessness. If you fail, you are not a true Dauntless member. But there is one scene with Tris that is incredibly exhilarating and foreshadows the climax of the trilogy. That's all I'm sayin'....
I'm afraid from watching the film that I would definitely be a divergent, most of us probably would. I think I would be an Erudite Abnegation hybrid...at least in this life.
But I don't think I'd like to live in that society...there's absolutely no pop culture! No wonder everybody's getting antsy living in those conditions...
Seriously, this is a wonderful film, full of action and strong emotions. It is a thrill ride with mystery and secrets to be revealed later in the trilogy of films. It is a fascinating world, but I'm so glad I don't live in it.
Check it out!
Until next time...