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‘Divergent’ Review: Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James & Kate Winslet

“I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and honest, and kind.” –Four in Divergent

Lionsgate Films and Summit Entertainment aren’t novices when producing novel turned film adaptations. The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games films broke box office records and are considered wildly popular among teens and young adults. The studio is hoping to have the same success with Divergent so they can then make another two or three films to follow.

Coming from someone who has read Divergent and Insurgent (I’m getting ready to read Allegiant), I’m hoping this first film does well, so I can see the story come full circle on screen. And led by the fantastic Shailene Woodley and supported by veteran Queen Kate Winslet, it’d be a shock if the story didn’t attract new fans to the series.

Based on the best-selling novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent is set in futuristic Chicago where everyone is divided into factions based off of their characteristics. The five factions are Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent) and Dauntless (the brave).

Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is about to take her test, which will determine which faction she will fall under. After the test, which involves rigorous mind games, Dauntless member Tori (Maggie Q) informs Tris that she does not fit into one faction, but three: Abnegation, Dauntless and Erudite. “They call it Divergent,” Tori says and proceeds to tell Tris to keep her results quiet since Divergents are a threat to the system since they cannot be controlled.

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As Tris goes back to her Abnegation home, more confused than ever, her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) tells her to “think about the family when choosing tomorrow, but also think about yourself.” Their father (Tony Goldwyn) feels confident that his children will choose to remain in Abnegation, while their mother (Ashley Judd) seems to be more empathetic if they choose to leave.

At the choosing ceremony, Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) explains to the initiates that this is the best way to maintain peace for their world. When Tris chooses Dauntless and jumps into their world (literally), she meets handsome Dauntless initiate trainer Four (Theo James), along with fellow initiates and friends Christina (Zoe Kravitz), Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and Al (Christian Madsen), and a few enemies Peter (Miles Teller) and Dauntless leader Eric (Jai Courtney).

As Tris trains and fights her way through the Dauntless program to stay alive, she begins to learn that there are people who are out to find Divergents and eliminate them.

Shailene Woodley is fantastic as our lead heroine and is everything Divergent fans could have hoped for in playing Tris. She carries the film from start to finish and there is never a dull moment with her on screen. Her emotional range and character arc are truly impressive not just for an actress in her early twenties, but for any actress working today.

And Theo James, where have you been hiding all this time?! Though I was unsure of his older age at first (in the book Four is 18-years-old), James was an immaculate Four and he and Woodley worked quite well together. The screenplay does its job developed the love story between these two central characters, but it’s the actors that complete the job by igniting their chemistry on screen.

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Tris’ relationships with Christina, Al and even Peter are majorly downplayed in the film, which was a bit disappointing, but there’s only so much that can fit into a two hour and 20 minute film. Though these characters were a bit lost, we did get to see more of Jeanine, who doesn’t have as big of a part in the book. And thankfully so, as Kate Winslet nailed the role of the villainous control freak.

Director Neil Burger (2011’s Limitless) does a fine job of telling the story for fans of the book, but perhaps the screenplay could have allowed more for viewers who are watching the story for the first time.

Divergent doesn’t set the bar as high as I hoped in the young adult film genre, but Woodley is an impressive lead actress for this series. It’s clear she admires her character and I can’t wait to see what she will do with Insurgent and Allegiant. The scenes between Tris and Four are everything a fangirl could hope for, while the film itself doesn’t quite flow as nicely as the book does.

Fans of the books will most likely adore the film, while others may roll their eyes at a few cheesy moments and a bit of a predictable plotline. As a Divergent fan, Woodley is everything I wanted in Tris, James wonderfully impressed as Four, and Winslet is incredible as the stone cold Jeanine.

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