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Rest easy, Katniss: you win this round. ‘Divergent’ is the first film to be adapted from Veronica Roth’s dystopian young-adult book series and it arrives with a sludgy, grey-hued plop. It doesn’t help that Roth’s stories make ‘The Hunger Games’ look like George Orwell. Set in a future Chicago, 100 years after a war, Roth imagines a society where some of us are labelled ‘dauntless’, some are ‘erudite’, and still others are (gasp) ‘divergent’ and thus impossible to classify.

The film’s saving grace comes in the form of Shailene Woodley, the gifted 22-year-old who plays heroine Beatrice, born to conflicted impulses (more complex than her dialogue). Yet after a middle section of knife-throwing and other tests, ‘Divergent’ doesn’t have nearly enough for its star to do. Moreover, the movie’s walled-off city feels computerised, some of the clunky sets are ‘Star Trek’-grade awful and you’re not going to get swept up in any winning action.

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday April 4 2014
Duration: 139 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Neil Burger
Screenwriter: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor
Cast: Shailene Woodley
Miles Teller
Kate Winslet
Theo James

Average User Rating

2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Brevity is rarely my friend but on this occasion, it may well be kinder to try and adhere to the adage that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. It’s not that the whole film is awful…it’s just that it's pretty much a poor man’s ‘Hunger Games’. Futuristic? Check. Dystopian? Check. Defiant female lead? Check. Set up for at least another two films afterwards? Check.

The film begins quite well – Shailene Woodley is smart, plucky & likeable and the principal idea behind the movie is interesting. Beyond that though, it looks exactly as you’d expect, the script is exactly as you’d expect and by the time the ‘proper action’ kicked in, I’d lost a lot of interest. It all gets a bit messy and a bit unbelievable and a bit snoozy and the fact that it appears to be lazily tapping into the YA market and literally waiting for the money to pour in leaves a bit of a disappointed aftertaste.

Kate Winslet can do this sort of role in her sleep – being the baddie may seem like a departure for her but she’s still every bit as earnest and solid as you know she would be. Neither Theo James nor Miles Teller are anywhere near as good as HG’s Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson and truth be told, although I like Woodley a lot and she’s got great acting chops normally (hello one of the best things in ‘Big Little Lies’) here sadly she’s not given the material Jennifer Lawrence was and subsequently, she pales into comparison. Most films I watch make me reluctant for a midway comfort break as I’m always afraid I won’t know what’s going on when I get back; I could have gone and made dinner in the middle of this and still have been clear on the direction we were going upon my return. As a Sky Movies way to pass two hours on a Sunday afternoon, it’s passable but that's about as high a piece of praise that I can give it.