Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Insurgent: Film Review

Insurgent: Film Review

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet, Theo James
Director: Robert Schwentke

In the second of the trilogy (made as is Hollywood's wont, which will be made into four films), Shailene Woodley returns as Tris Prior.

Now on the run, with fellow fugitive and love interest Four (James), Tris finds herself hunted by Jeanine (Kate Winslet) who's determined to wipe out the Divergent strain. But Jeanine finds that the Divergents suddenly hold the key to opening a mysterious box that promises to deliver a message for all their futures.

So, with the net tightening around them, and with the guilt of the death of her family playing heavily on her, Tris finds the stakes are higher than ever.

There's an irony that the word Urgent is in the title Insurgent, given how lax and relatively flat the film is this time around, with the angst dialled up to 11 and the distinct lack of much happening sucking some of the life out of Veronica Roth's series which started off so promisingly.

The first film had an affable feel to it as it toyed with the unoriginal idea of trying to fit teenagers into factions and life with some discovering their alienation was a sign they didn't fit in to their assigned box.

In the first, Divergent, Woodley thrived as Tris; this time around, she's crippled by grief and hamstrung by an inability to hit the emotional pitches needed for the character's struggle in this dystopian YA outing. 

In a sign of Tris' growing angst, she cuts her hair off and it proves to be the only really defining moment for the character, as the teen posturing / moping and bloodless action begins to kick in. It's potentially more a fault of the writing, given there's little for her to do but even so she really doesn't quite convey the emotional weight needed (which is a real shame as she dealt with it brilliantly in The Spectactular Now) and those involved in the script prefer to hammer home the "Forgive yourself" message to the point of distraction. It doesn't help that Tris isn't really a character you'd root for in the latest; the weight of expectations and guilt weigh and wear her down, and the audience along with it.

Equally, the supporting cast suffer the indignity of having little to do; James is solid but unmemorable as the pretty boy Four, whose life is changed when he meets Evelyn (a bizarrely miscast and emo Naomi Watts) but who ends up merely moping; Elgort is wasted as Caleb, who's about as wet as they come and narratively an empty vessel and Teller suffers from a lack of screen time as his snarky and obsequious Peter is diverted due to story necessities. Winslet manages to channel some icy villainess as Jeanine preferring to go for effective menace rather than scene chewing.

Schwentke, who directed the likes of Red and RIPD pulls together some nicely executed VFX scenes that are a step up from what you'd have experienced in The Matrix and The Lawnmower Man, but they feel like expanded hangovers from music videos in part; visually impressive and diverting from how little is going on on screen.

The Insurgent trailer promised to deliver action and scope but what the second film actually does is fail to fully deliver to that premise and ramp up the action stakes.

In parts, a lot of Insurgent is one-note with consequences that aren't really that dramatic given how lightly sketched some of the supporting players are; it lacks the gritty conviction of its dystopian premise and thanks to its relatively dour execution, it's nowhere near as engaging as a second portion of a trilogy should be.


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