FilmReview

Review: ‘Divergent’ is an Engrossing Dystopian Adventure

Daniella Cuencas ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Film Editor

Theo James and Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.
Theo James and Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.

For readers of the series, Divergent will not only meet expectations, it will exceed them; and for incoming fans, they will surely be in for a pleasant surprise. The plot centers on a sixteen-year-old girl named Tris in dystopian Chicago. Citizens are grouped into five factions, or divisions, called “Amity,” “Candor,” “Erudite,” “Dauntless,” and “Abnegation.”  Tris was born into Abnegation, but ultimately chooses to transfer into Dauntless, where courage is prized.  The people she encounters during her journey to become a part of Dauntless are crucial to the story as Tris discovers corruption within her society.

If the plot isn’t enough to draw audiences, the cast surely will. Golden Globe nominee Shailene Woodley stuns as Tris. Her acting is exceptional as Tris emotes a spectrum of feelings like shyness, toughness, love, and grief during the film.  She carried the movie with her strong acting chops. Throughout the page-to-screen adaptation, Tris’ vulnerability and blossoming strength are shown through the challenges she faces in her life.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.
Shailene Woodley and Theo James in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.

Theo James assumes the role of Four, a skilled Dauntless trainer with a secret. He delivers the perfect mix of unwavering strength, devotion, and mystery; and his bond with Tris is neither contrived nor over-the-top. Though at first it seems unlikely, Tris and Four’s relationship later blossoms into a believable romance.

Director Neil Burger made sure every scene was important to the film, leaving in nothing extraneous to detract from the film’s momentum. The plot and characters developed with every scene and explanation. Often with adaptations, many plot points are lost in translation from book to screenplay, but it was obvious that the screenwriters tried their best to keep the movie consistent with the book.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.
Shailene Woodley and Theo James in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.

Throughout the movie, the audience will notice that most shots are close-ups. Due to the post-apocalyptic setting, it seems that scenery would be important. However, as the movie continues, the initial nuisance of extreme close-ups results in stronger characterization. This made Divergent feel as though it was not solely fueled by the plot, but by a character study, as well. The combination works well and helps to balance the film after some intense fight scenes.

Unfortunately, the only poor decision throughout the entire movie is the misplacement of music. Often, throughout very important scenes or at seemingly random intervals, the soundtrack will act as a distraction from the focus of a particular scene. Usually music should enhance the movie-watching experience, but during Divergent, this is not the case. The music sidetracks the audience from the plot and frequently fails to accurately capture the mood of the scene.

The bottom line is that Divergent is an engrossing experience. The performances draw you in, the plot is invigorating, and the novel-to-film adaptation could not have been more seamless. It is apparent that the writer and director did their best to really bring this book to life. This is a definitely a must-see film!

Overall Grade: A-  

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