Tris is on the run from the powers of Erudite but her journey is just beginning.
Following directly on from 2014’s Divergent, Insurgent is not a film for the casual viewer. If you’re not up on your Abnegation and Amity, you’ll soon be left behind as the fast-paced narrative kicks off and keeps on kicking.
I quite enjoyed Divergent – it has an interesting world with a well thought out caste system and a lead female character who isn’t defined by her relationships and has far more agency than the likes of Katniss.
Insurgent is a different film in many ways, less concerned with the world building and spending more time with Tris and the consequences of her actions. In less sure hands it could be maudlin stuff but young Shainlene Woodley does a great job at bringing the anger and pain of the character to life.
She’s so good that no one else really gets a look in, despite starry names like Kate Winslet and an odd-looking Naomi Watts. Theo James’ love interest mostly moons or hits things and I was mightily impressed with Jai Courtney’s movie run, but he doesn’t have a lot to do otherwise.
It’s really only Miles Teller who makes an impression, mostly because he seems like he’s in a totally different film. He fills every moment on screen with scheming and slyness and raises the only laughs of the picture, really elevating his scenes and the film as a whole.
The rest of the film mostly involves some running around (yes trains remain a major feature) and a lot of tests. These ‘fear landscapes’ are all about showing how you respond to the demands of the different factions and with a significant budget boost new director Robert Schwentke really goes to town on the visuals.
Personally I thought they looked great, with a mix of strong CG and a solid design aesthetic to visualise Tris’ struggle. But there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s functionally indistinct from watching our main character playing video games for minutes on end.
There’s fun to be had here, and fans will certainly enjoy themselves, but there’s a limited amount of actual plot on offer despite a two hour running time and Tris’ character progression feels constrained by the relationship stuff. The visuals and soundtrack are strong and the ending points at significant events to come but Insurgent can’t help feeling like an interstitial moment in the franchise.
Expect the two-part Allegiant adaptation in 2016 and 2017.