Thrills and misfires abound in this not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman-but-nearly-a-trained-killer coming of age tale. Veronica Roth’s YA best-seller (herself only 21 at time of writing) sees the remaining members of a dystopian caste society separated into five factions based on their primary virtue – peacefulness, honesty, bravery, intelligence or selflessness.
Our heroine Tris Prior (The Descendents’ Shailene Woodley) discovers she is an aberration whose existence is a threat to scheming authority Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). Hiding her true nature, Tris becomes part of the parkour-loving soldier faction and begins her transformation from worried teen to warrior queen with help from a smartly cast group of fellow initiates, including Woodley’s The Spectacular Now co-star Miles Teller, whose abrasive charms are criminally under-utilised here as the Draco Malfoy of the class. Woodley puts in the kind of finely-drawn performance that is becoming her trademark but more importantly, the central relationship between her and stony squad leader Four (played by Brit newcomer Theo James) sizzles and sears, filling the screen with an explosion of perfect cheekbones and no doubt bringing a sigh of relief to the adaptation police for whom such chemistry is “like, really important”.
Although an enjoyable ride, the film suffers somewhat from a lean narrative, some tepid set-pieces and an older cast that is woefully outperformed by the younger – Ashley Judd’s furniture-like qualities are present and accounted for and even the usually dazzling Winslet comes off more disapproving HR lady than bone-chilling despot. Add non-explicit violence and a running time that drags and the film is unfortunately diluted from great action-thriller to merely good teen drama.
‘Divergent’ Movie Times