Tris (Shailene Woodley) is forced to come of age in a dystopia where individuals are placed into factions based on which of five virtues they value most highly. But when the time comes for Tris to take her own place in society, she turns out to be Divergent, valuing more than one virtue. She tries to switch out of her family’s humble Abnegation Faction to Dauntless Faction, who value bravery, to fake out a government that punishes non-conformity. Unfortunately for Tris, evil mastermind Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is behind it all and will stop at nothing to take her down.
The film gathers steam slowly due to excessive world-building that can feel like it requires pie charts and visual aids. There’s plenty to gobble up for the detail-oriented, but action lovers will have to be a little more patient. If girl fights, death-defying leaps, moving trains and zip lines are your thing, it will be worth the wait. In the mean time, focus on the aesthetic that tightens this rangy concept: sleek props that gleam luminescent orange or blend into dun backdrops, and costumes that range from hippie shorts-dresses to bomber jackets.
Tris is independent but relies on others (like superb supporting actress Zoe Kravtiz) when she needs help. Love interest Four (Theo James–swoon) is strong but not pushy, and only steps in when he’s needed, never on Tris’ toes. Fighting is clean but brutal, and with mature consequences.
A younger crowd is likely to be more excited by this movie. The film is a fantasy of rules as teens see them: restrictive, senseless, overly complex and arbitrary. In this world, being Dauntless looks like a blast. Tris jumps onto and off of rooftops and moving trains, gets sexy tattoos, hangs out with a reckless gang of hot boys and girls, and eats and trains in halls that reverberate with loud party music. If those days are behind you rather than ahead, some entertainment can be found parsing the derivative social commentary, but more in the elastically bouncy soundtrack. Ellie Goulding is heavily featured, along with Kendrick Lamar, M83, and Skrillex.
This is a movie a girl could see with her mom and a big ol’ pretzel on a rainy day–or take your daughter/girl gang if you’re tired of only ever seeing heroines in ball gowns or their underwear.