I haven’t really taken much notice of Divergent up until now. When I went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the staff were handing out little supplements of the book which I have not read. I looked deeper into it and discovered it was a Young Adult book, seemingly with something in common with The Hunger Games and that a film was coming out. Still did not take much notice, and then one time in Waterstones, a staff member suggested it saying that they preferred it to The Hunger Games (Books). I started taking a bit of interest in it though when the first TV Spot came up. For me though, going to see Divergent was going to be a gamble, did not know much about it except for a growing interest in the books, so I took the gamble to go and see it, and I loved it (similar to the gamble I took when I went to see The Hunger Games).
Based on the book of the same name by Veronica Roth, directed by Neil Burger and produced by Summit Entertainment, Divergent is set in Chicago in the not too distant future. The city is walled, and the city itself is somewhat degraded. The people of Chicago live in a faction based system where when you turn of age, you are assigned to one of these classes (sort of like the Caste System of the Tau in Warhammer 40,000). Abnegation who are selfless and are the political system, Amity who are peaceful and are like the farmers, Candor who are truthful and are like the lawyers, Erudite who are intelligent and who are basically the scientists, and Dauntless who are brave and are the military. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) belongs to Abnegation but has always had an eye for Dauntless. When she comes of age she goes through the test to see who she is. The test is orchestrated by a women called Tori (Maggie Q) who tells her that Beatrice’s results do not conform to one faction and is therefore Divergent. As Divergent’s are capable of independent thought, they are considered as a threat and Beatrice is told to keep quite.
At the choosing ceremony, all the come of age children get to decide which faction they want to join, no matter what their test results are. Beatrice goes against what she was raised as and joins Dauntless. As she has now chosen a different faction to her parents Andrew (Tony Goldwyn) and Natalie (Ashley Judd) she can no longer see them. Upon leaving the ceremony, she realises how crazy Dauntless are as she is asked to board a moving train, and jump through a building by young dauntless leader Eric (Jai Courtney). When she reaches the bottom, she meets Four (Theo James) who says they can choose a different name, but must stick with it, she calls herself Tris. At the training centre she strikes up a friendship with Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Al (Christian Madsen) and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). She initially struggles in training and is in constant danger of being cut and becoming factionless. She has a fight with a rival called Peter (Miles Teller) who hospitalises her. She is almost kicked out until she joins a capture the flag game and helps her team win it.
Tris now moves onto the second part of training, a mental training ground that tries to find out who she really is. She is faced with obstacles that terrify her, but when she remembers that the tests are not real, she manages to overpower them. This makes her stand out by a long margin. She goes to visit her Brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) who is an Erudite who tells her that Erudite are planning to overthrow Abnegation whose leader Marcus (Ray Stevenson) is appearing to break laws. On her way back to the training centre, she is attacked by a group of masked men, one of whom is Al who is failing in the second part of the training. When he tries to ask for forgiveness, Tris brands him a coward, and he kills himself. Four takes Tris into his own fear test and tells her that in order to hide herself as a Divergent, she needs to complete the tasks as a Dauntless would, during this he reveals himself to be the son of Marcus, four and Tris then begin a relationship. At the final test Tris completes all her tasks without revealing herself as a Divergent and goes through the initiation before having a final injection.
The following morning, Tris realizes that the injection is a mind controlling serum used by Erudite to manipulate Dauntless. With the army now under their control, Erudite plans to wipe-out Abnegation. Only Tris and Four are unaffected who attempt to blend in to try and stop the atrocity. They are however found out, captured and split up; Tris is rescued by her mother who was actually a Dauntless. They go to meet up with Tris’s father, but her mother gets shot on the way. Tris, her father, brother and Marcus go back to Dauntless to stop them, and use Peter who is involved to take them to where Dauntless is being controlled, but her father dies in the process. Tris finds Four who has a large dose of the serum and is under the control of Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet), but manages to break him out of it. Using the same serum they manage to stop Jeanine, and free Dauntless of the mind control. Tris, Four, Marcus and Caleb then flee on the train, and plan to go as far as the end of the tracks, towards the wall.
Divergent is a beautifully set world. While it is in the form of a walled off Chicago, the world on the bottom, is pretty and beautiful but does not divulge too much into a futuristic setting, therefore making the world and setting very contemporary, as in, it is very much in the now. The idea of the world did make me think a lot of Æon Flux as in it is isolated from the rest of the world, but the society that exists is very grounded in its structure and beliefs. I also like the use of the commuter style trains, so instead of a mass transport style train like that in say Borderlands 2, it is very much something that most people in the world are used to seeing, and so no explanation is needed into how they work, a trains a train. The dilapidated look of the city also comes into consideration as it gives the city both history and character and brings up questions as to what happened and while these are mostly seen from the sky level and the outer stretches of the city limits, it shows what has been done to keep the centre alive as possible. It’s not just in the city though, but also what people wear which adds an element of character to the city and people. The clothes are nicely and brilliantly well designed and is definitely one of the film’s most stand out features.
Divergent is a beautifully shot film. It’s uses of broad wide shots show the world that it is living in, and nothing too small a detail is left out including things like the electric wire on the wall, the holes in the building, the dilapidation, everything. But at its best is the way it changes scenery and how quickly it does so without making the viewer sick. You know when, if you take films that do lots of flipping, spinning, high-flying, quick changes, the viewer may feel sick. Divergent instead finishes the shot, but then cuts to somewhere else instead of having to merge them together, meaning that the viewer is neither likely to be dizzy, eye strained or feel sick throughout. The zip line scene is also wonderfully done as it shows some more of the beauty of the city that has been kept intact as well as those bits that have fallen, but is also a beautiful scene in its own right.
Divergent’s cast are a great selection of actors and actresses who are some of the finest young and old talent around today. Particular mentions include Kate Winslet as the scheming cold villain who on the surface definitely appears to be more than she seems as well as manipulative. Molly (Amy Newbold) is an interesting character who gets minor prolific appearances throughout. She is a keen trainee who while having a cold interior seemingly has more to her than that and possibly has a sense of vulnerability about her, I look forward to seeing more of her character. The character of Eric meanwhile is a well-defined Rotter, easily someone you just want to avoid, while the Dauntless leader Max (Mekhi Phifer) underneath is truly opposite. Caleb meanwhile is definitely a man of vision but is easily swayed by manipulation and is very much the icon of the film’s term Faction over Blood. Marcus and the rest of Tris’s family are similar in that they show their exterior more than anything else but are definitely hiding something.
Four is much like this but has both elements of trust and distrust but is a good character witness who can see there is more to a person than meets the eye and will eventually rat it out of them, much like he did with Tris, but shows that he is not necessarily a man of the state, but more of a kind and gentle friend in a tough situation. Tori is a nice secretive character who is easily showing how hard it is to stay hidden. While her appearances in the film appear to be mostly small and infrequent, there is more to look forward too with this character as a connection to the audience begins to grow.
The real stars of Divergent though are easily Zoë Kravitz and Shailene Woodley. From the moment you first see her; you know that Christina is going to be an important character. She gives off the feeling of someone who is a great person to be friends with but is also very committed to the path she has chosen, but is also very much a stand out character as in she will voice her opinion’s out in the open if she deems it necessary. This more open attitude is something that helps Tris to come out of the shell she has been hiding in and does this even more so by voicing the idea of getting tattoos. Why she herself is not a Divergent is a mystery. When I first saw the character of Tris I was sort of reminded of Georgina Rylance as they both seem to share a similar look with one another. Woodley’s character though shows what the world looks like to an outsider. The faction system, independent thought and what the natural human would go through to survive, this strong willed nature is hard for her to hide of course but she is able to manage in the long-term until the time is right to reveal herself. Her character is enjoyable throughout and hard to take your mind off as you feel for the character as she is more like the audience member than a citizen. And while she stays the same age throughout, her mind and realization grows and she becomes much like the disciplined soldier as well as more like an adult in mind.
The film’s soundtrack is well presented with the films main core soundtrack in my opinion being the Run Boy Run theme by Woodkid which is used a lot in the film, but not completely overdone to the point of boredom (like say in The Last of the Mohicans). The rest of the film’s soundtrack is a great mix of the types of music one would expect in a teen/young adult based drama but still not overdone as to bore other viewers.
Divergent overall is actually a very thought-provoking film presenting the ideas of how hard it is to join a specific group as well as the peer pressure presented very much in today’s society ageing from as young as school age to even adult age into joining and conforming to the rules of specific groups. It asks questions as to what would you do in those situations as to what must be done to not just be free of such cases but also to not be frowned or looked down upon due to your position in society and generally the case of all being treated as equals in the world we live in. These ideas are shown with much diligence and are not put to one side for the time being but are constantly presented throughout. The idea of being Divergent in itself is very much the replication of those who choose to both think differently and rebel against the current system under the belief that a much better system can be forged with a little push. The idea of having such suggestions is thoroughly pushed down with the idea of such people being announced rebels and how others desire for control shows what level they are willing to do this by committing such atrocities as mass murder and genocide.
Divergent throughout is an amazing film. Enjoyable from start to finish but with essences that will make you think along with an amazing cast, beautifully shot, thoroughly detailed and scenes that you will not forget in a hurry. It really isn’t just some ordinary teen thriller or action film, it is actually quite clever. I really do suggest that you give this film a try, as while many people may read the film from its poster or trailer, it is much more than that and deserves a good try. It is truly a wonderful film, and one that I highly recommend, not just the audiences that the film is aimed at, but to everyone.