Runtime 140 minutes
OK for children
Science fiction films set in a bleak future are not my cup of tea. So this was not a film I was eagerly anticipating. As a result I was pleasantly surprised to find this to be as advertised, a thrilling action-adventure film that held my interest to the end.
Directed by Neil Burger from a screenplay by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor based on the best-selling novel by Veronica Roth, the story is set in Chicago, where it was filmed on location. Society is divided into five factions, Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, and Candor. People must choose their faction when they are teenagers and they are stuck with it for the rest of their lives. Tris (Shailene Woodley) finds out that she is a Divergent, which is a person who does not fit into any category.
This happens in about the first 15 minutes of the film and the rest is a tense story about her training to become a member of the faction she chooses and what happens when she doesn’t really fit in.
I don’t want to tell the story because it’s far more entertaining to see it as it unfolds instead of reading about it and then going to see the film after you basically know what to anticipate. The cast consists of a lot of people I’ve not seen before, except for Ashley Judd, who plays Tris’s mother, and Kate Winslet, who enters the film at the end in what is basically a cameo even though she plays one of the key characters in the film.
Like most science fiction movies, a lot of the effectiveness and believability depends on the capabilities of the director of photography and the production designer, Alwin H. Küchler and Andy Nicholson, respectively. Nicholson does an amazing job creating what Chicago would look like 150 years from now after a 100 year war. Some of it was damaged but some of it remains standing and it is now encircled by a wall.
Burger filmed many of his scenes on the streets of Chicago, so there are several recognizable parts of the city in the movie like the Hancock building, the elevated trains, the Sears Tower, Lake Michigan, Navy pier and the Ferris Wheel. The result is a future that is realistic and believable in terms of location shots.
The acting is very good. Even though it is carried by Woodley and Theo James as Four, the supporting players contribute a lot. Standing out above the fine supporting performances is Jai Courtney as Eric, who goes out of his way to give Tris a hard time.
My main criticism is the ending and this paragraph might contain a spoiler. Films lose their credibility when they have one or two people taking on what looks like huge numbers of people and have their bullets always find the targets but the other thousands of bullets shot at them going awry. Burger would have been well advised to have had an ending that doesn’t shake the film’s credibility to the breaking point. I still came out of the film feeling rewarded, but the absurdity of the Hollywood ending left a bad taste in my mouth.