When it comes to the middle film of a movie franchise, you could argue that the narrative serves a lesser purpose, with no universe to set, nor story to conclude, instead more concerned with maintaining the pace of the preceding endeavour, while leaving enough open for the final production(s). What transpires can be a film palpably devoid of closure and linearity, and it’s that inconclusive nature to Robert Schwentke’s Insurgent that proves to be its greatest misgiving.
Having discovered she’s a divergent – therefore not fitting in to any particular faction that separates society in this dystopian, post-apocalyptic world – Tris (Shailene Woodley) is now a fugitive, on the run from the tyrannical oppressor Jeanine (Kate Winslet), who is afraid of what she could be capable of – and whom she may inspire. Alongside her industrious partner Four (Theo James), the pair desperately attempt to avoid capture, while in the meantime, Tris seeks vengeance on those who made her an orphan, while wanting to put an end to this uncompromising, regimented civilisation.
Haunted by her own past, and the countless deaths that she is connected to following her exploits in the first feature – we delve into Tris’ sub-conscious, often unable to determine what’s happening in reality, and what is just a harrowing nightmare. This makes for a disquieting cinematic experience, as Schwentke – who takes over directing duties from the departing Neil Burger – plays with our perceptions, as we embody our protagonist – never quite sure what to believe, or who to trust. The intensity extends to the fact that we’re entering into this world through the perspective of a fugitive, continuously on the run, always looking over her shoulder.
However the suspense that is created is devalued by a lack of character development, and despite Woodley’s best efforts, shining again in the leading role, she’s simply not been blessed with a nuanced, layered character in this instance. The talented actress just about manages to provide some depth, but not enough to carry this entire franchise. Regrettably, James is left in a similar boat, though unlike his counterpart, his somewhat wooden turn does little to transcend what is written in the mediocre screenplay. The one actor who has been given an intriguing character to work with however, is Miles Teller, who plays Peter – yet his talents are not utilised nearly enough, with a distinct lack of screen time. On a more positive note, Insurgent isn’t bogged down by its jarring romantic sub-plot, with more focus on the action, with the impressive 3D technology lending itself to a handful of compelling set pieces. In Divergent, the mawkish tendencies were off-putting (remember the ferris wheel?), and this sequel has certainly made amends in that regard.
Nonetheless, the characters are engulfed in a repetitive, somewhat tedious formula, whereby they find themselves in grave danger, only to then be saved in miraculous fashion by somebody, or something – which is emblematic of a monotonous narrative structure. We undoubtedly abide by Tris’ mental, and physical strength – but bullets just seem to go through her. Quite the talent if you think about it. No wonder she’s sought after.
You can see all our interviews from the World Premiere of Insurgent by clicking