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Insurgent 3D – film review

March 26, 2015


Worthy follow-up unveils game-changing revelations.

Reviewed on Wednesday 18h March 2015

insurgent tris with gun

Directed by Robert Schwentke. Screenplay by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback, based on the book by Veronica Roth. Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts and Kate Winslett. Running time: 119 mins.

The current wave of young adult novel movie adaptations set in dystopian future worlds rolls on with Insurgent, the latest installment in the popular Tris Prior series     of novels. German director Robert Schwentke, best known for The Time Traveller’s Wife and RED, takes up the directorial reins from where Neil Burger left off with Divergent, maintaining a continuity of style which adds greatly to the overall enjoyment of this middle installment (based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling trilogy).

Taking place almost immediately after the events of the previous film, we find Tris, Four, Peter and Caleb hiding out amongst the Amity faction in idyllic surrounds where, during a raid fronted by Tris’ former Dauntless instructor Eric (Jai Courtney), the four renegades suddenly find themselves once again on the run. Joining forces with the underground resistance movement known as Factionless, Tris and Four embark on a perilous journey to infiltrate the city to take out rutheless Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslett) and bring down the tyrannical control grid. Meanwhile Jeanine has recovered an artifact which Tris’ murdered parents lost their lives trying to conceal; a puzzle box of sorts said to have been left by the city’s founders; thought to contain a message of profound importance to the society’s future – one which can only be unlocked by a truly gifted Divergent.

As regular visitors to my blog will no doubt be aware, I was quite shocked and dismayed at just how much trollish hate was unleashed against Divergent upon its release last year. I really did feel like I was in the minority when it came to my genuine enjoyment and appreciation of that particular film. Being unfamiliar with the source material, but aware of classical three act structure, I guess I was able to just trust the story enough that the (admitedly goofy) set up would pay off satisfyingly in later installments. And gee, I’m so glad that I did!

It comes as no surprise Insurgent opens with its film company logos rendered in glowing green computer graphics reminiscent of The Matrix, as there are several similarities between this film and the Wachowskis’ celebrated cyber-dystopia. Scenes depicting a superhuman Tris interacting with various virtual reality worlds (during faction sim trials she is subjected to) do indeed feel very similar to scenes which take place inside the Matrix. Aside from these sim trial sequences, Schwentke’s direction overall is straightforward and non-showy and, as with Burger’s direction of Divergent before him, it thankfully appears the headache-inducing shaky-cam and montage editing of action scenes of recent times is a rapidly waning trend; giving way instead to a return to the traditional visual language and story-telling techniques of classical cinema. With Schwentke signing on to direct the first part of the next installment, Allegiant, this bodes very well for the series to maintain its integrity and coherence. Although I won’t necessarily be going out of my way to see the next installment in 3D, as (aside from the closing credits and some scenes involving holographic computer readouts) the 3D employed in Insurgent adds very little to the overall enjoyment of the film.

insurgent tris and four

With the character of Tris being in virtually every scene, Insurgent fails or succeeds based purely on the performance of its lead, Shailene Woodley (here sporting a brand new haircut). Picking up where we left her, Tris is wracked with enormous guilt over the deaths of her loved ones in the previous installment, feeling she was directly responsible. This development in her character allows Woodley plenty of scope to demonstrate just how good an actor she really is. The remainder of the returning cast are fine with some nice chemistry between Woodley and Theo James, while new cast member Jonny Weston as Factionless second-in-command Edgar is less convincing.

While on the surface Insurgent appears considerably more violent than the previous installment, much of the violence, due to its PG-13 rating, is hidden in the editing, which is way more noticeable this time around. As a consequence, death tends to have much less of an impact than it should – leading to an odd distancing effect.     My only real issue with the film overall is that after such a fast-paced and thrilling     first half, the momentum tends to slow somewhat once we get to Chicago. However, despite this second act slump in pacing in the middle, momentum does pick up again in the final third – leading to an emotionally and thematically satisfying finale. If Divergent is an ode to non-comformity, then – at its conclusion, Insurgent is a celebration of the diversity of strengths found within each and every one of us.

And to all those bandwagonist critics who were so quick to lambast the perceived ‘ludicrousness’ of the central premise of the previous installment – I anticipate       with great interest their reactions when those hasty criticisms are neutered so spectacularly and satisfyingly from the revelations revealed in this follow-up installment. Just goes to show, I guess, that perhaps it’s better not to jump to conclusions until more of the puzzle pieces fall into place.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Palace-Nova Eastend Cinemas, Adelaide, March 18th 2015.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

From → film reviews

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