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Set 100 years after a war that we're told destroyed most of Earth's civilization, the movie is adapted from American author Veronica Roth's 2011 young adult science fiction novel, Divergent, the first in the series' trilogy. Here, all teens living within the walled and landlocked city of Chicago undergo a simulated test in their mind that monitors their dominant traits to determine which of the city's five factions - Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, or Erudite - they should join as productive members of society. For instance, if your test shows you're peaceful, you'd be happiest farming the fields as an Amity faction initiate. If you're courageous, fall in at the Dauntless faction's rowdy boot camp. Born into the dull and selfless life of her parents' governing Abnegation faction, Beatrice is confused her test results show she doesn't fit into any single category and is warned to hide her divergent traits or be killed.
Why? Unlike the majority favoured as eager faction members or the minority unfriended as a societal outcasts, the apparently rare divergents are resistant to mind control - including the drug-induced simulation used to define their place in a faction - and, as a result, are being systematically eradicated by the Erudite faction as a threat to their schemes of flexing Dauntless' well-armed muscle to overthrow the city's Abnegation-run government.
It sounds complex but this is a fairly simplified, wonderfully entertaining flick over-all. Divergent enjoys great primary characters and a captivating story about teenaged Beatrice - Tris, as she calls herself after joining Dauntless. Shailene Woodley does an impressive job as Tris, bringing an A-game performance throughout while being pulled along by this enjoyable coming-of-age adventure of nicely-paced actiony twists. She spars, both verbally and physically. Takes a lot of hits, but keeps pushing herself. Woodley's role presents a difficult balance between Tris being a misfit amongst her Quaker-like family, and struggling against mild prejudice while asserting her right to be a Dauntless initiate. Better still is in how Tris' young insecurities are challenged, overcome and modified on the ground and in her mind. Good stuff.
The underlying subversive nature
of Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor's screenplay is outstanding,
because it demonstrates how warped and stupid the clique mentality
so prevalent in the lives of young people is by presenting individuality
as a threat. Human nature versus compliant free will. Light shades
of Orwell abound. The fact Divergent's main character chooses
to remain part of society and learns how to adapt her wider skills
within narrower confines as a means of survival and success is
also an incredibly fresh spin on Hollywood's anti-hero template
- unlike what's seen in its most closely-compared, hugely popular
page-to-screen cousin, The Hunger Games (2012). (Read
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