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Review: 'Insurgent,' part two of four 'Divergent' films, entertainingly bides time (w/trailer)

The stakes are raised, the tension is higher in Insurgent, the second in the Divergent series.
The stakes are raised, the tension is higher in Insurgent, the second in the Divergent series.
Published Mar. 18, 2015

Armed with divergent skills and a freshly self-inflicted, no-fuss hairdo, Tris Prior is feeling Insurgent, and we're down with that. This franchise is one of the more entertaining examples of three popular books stretched to four movies when two would do.

Insurgent is part two, with all the biding-time pitfalls that implies. Part twos are when viewers who skipped part one are caught up to speed, when stakes are raised but not too much. Everything teases something coming next year to a theater near you. And then greedily the year after that.

Tris' new 'do is her way of grieving the deaths of her mother and father in part one, giving talented Shailene Woodley a thick layer of guilt to portray. Woodley is a master of the single-tear cry on cue, and director Robert Schwentke isn't shy about pulling the camera in tight. She's asked to carry absurd moments with her wonderfully plain face alone — the truth serum interrogation is an unintentional hoot — but comes out unscathed.

Insurgent continues Tris' uneasiness with being this particular yarn's the One, the person upon whose shoulders the future of a messed-up future rests. Here, the walled-in city of Chicago is divided into districts based on aptitude and personality, ruled by Jenine (Kate Winslet in Hillary Clinton mode) and the smarty-pants Erudites.

Tris, her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), commando boyfriend Four (Theo James) and untrustworthy smart aleck Peter (Miles Teller) are on the lam, hiding in the hippie commune Amity district, until Jenine begins rounding up Divergents like Tris. Jenine has a magic box with a message from Chicago's founders that only a Divergent can open, and it ain't easy.

Eventually Tris learns the degree of difficulty, zapped by viper cables with the virtual reality hazing of all five groups — Amity, Erudite, Dauntless, Candor and Abnegation — that she must survive. The ancestral message sets up a finale that left me wondering where the yarn leads next, and fairly convinced it won't be as much dumb fun.

Schwentke keeps things lively and loud, with a mildly alarming body count, smashing glass and gunfire. James is maturing into a decent B-movie action hero, and Teller lends whatever comic relief can be squeezed from the script. Roth's story leans too heavily upon double crosses that don't translate as well to screen. But you have to respect a book and movie teaching young people what words like "abnegation" mean. The more you know.

Contact Steve Persall at or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.


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