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Insurgent Takes the Slow Train to Dullsville

<i>Insurgent</i> Takes the Slow Train to Dullsville

DVD Release Date: August 4, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: March 20, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for intense violence and action throughout, some sensuality, thematic elements and brief language)
Genre: Dystopian/Drama/Action
Run Time: 119 min.
Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, Naomi Watts, Miles Teller, Octavia Spencer, Zoe Kravitz

After a somewhat promising start with Divergent late last summer, the big-screen adaptations of Veronica Roth's bestselling novels have officially hit the skids with Insurgent.

To her credit, Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars) gives her all as lead revolutionary Tris while the audience boards the slow train to Dullsville. As appealing an onscreen presence Woodley is, her feisty resolve simply can't save a film that never really finds its footing. from crosswalkmovies on GodTube.

Stripped of anything resembling a distinct plot, tone or characterization, Insurgent instead becomes devoted to go-nowhere action sequences and Tris’s battle with herself, a tired device that isn't developed with much depth here. Who knew a post-apocalyptic existence could be so..., well, boring? As a veteran viewer of many, many films of this ilk, I didn't think it was possible, but Insurgent has proven it can be done.

As if to underscore how thoroughly passionless Insurgent is, even the romantic angle between the camera-friendly leads seems to have fizzled out. While Woodley and her tattooed love interest Four (Brit actor Theo James) had decent chemistry the first time around, there’s nary a spark between these actors now. To wit, Tris and Four look at each other with all the enthusiasm of a patient sitting in a dentist’s chair. It’s painful, and you can’t help hoping something, anything, will happen to help remove this film from life support.

(Related: Read Mrs. Banister's positive 2012 review of Veronica Roth's novel Insurgent)

Picking right up where Divergent left off, post-apocalyptic Chicago is just as dreary as ever. Worse yet, violence between factions is escalating rapidly, and Tris, Four and a few others from Dauntless are forced into hiding from the dubious commander-in-chief Jeanine (Kate Winslet, Labor Day). A fierce defender of the existing faction system, Jeanine believes all those who don't fit neatly into one particular group, a.k.a. the "divergent," need to be eliminated for the good of society. But when Jeanine discovers that Tris’s now-deceased parents were in possession of an important box that only a divergent can open, Jeanine needs the very people she’s been intent on destroying.

Utilizing a series of challenging simulations to determine which divergent can successfully open the mysterious cube, Jeanine isn’t exactly having much luck when every single test subject dies before the mission is accomplished. Not surprisingly, it’s Tris, and only Tris, who can open the box, but will Jeanine ever be able to catch up with her arch nemesis to find out?

It’s this quest that consumes most of the film’s running time, and it’s not a particularly compelling one. While the occasional scene with pedigreed actors like Octavia Spencer (Black or White) or Naomi Watts (Birdman) livens things up a little, it’s still not enough to elevate such a lackluster production. Much like last November's Mockingjay Pt. 1 in the Hunger Games franchise, Insurgent is nothing more than a placeholder, a shameless cash grab prior to the series' final chapter, Allegiant.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: A couple of characters are injected with truth serum.
  • Language/Profanity: Exactly three expletives: sh--, da--and he--.
  • Sex/Nudity: It’s implied that Tris and Four sleep together. She unzips her jacket in front of Four, but there’s no nudity shown.
  • Violence/Thematic Elements: Guns are a regular fixture in the movie, and many of the film's fatalities are from bullets. Fights break out in several of the factions. Several women and children are given a tranquilizer and look dead as a result. A simulation that Jeanine is in charge of leads all of the test subjects to an early death. Three characters are programmed to commit suicide, and one actually follows through with it in front of a bunch of people. In a series of flashbacks throughout the film, Tris re-lives the death of her parents and her friend Will. The simulations that Tris is a part of place her in a series of perilous situations. Given all she’s been through, Tris is wrestling with the past, not to mention her role in some fatalities.

Publication date: March 19, 2015