Reviewed by: David Simpson
Shailene Woodley … Beatrice “Tris” Prior
Theo James … Four
Kate Winslet … Jeanine Matthews
Miles Teller … Peter
Jai Courtney … Eric
Zoë Kravitz (Zoe Kravitz) … Christina
Ansel Elgort … Caleb Prior
Ray Stevenson … Marcus Eaton
Ashley Judd … Natalie Prior
Tony Goldwyn … Andrew Prior
Maggie Q … Tori
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|Director||Neil Burger—“Limitless,” “The Illusionist”|
Red Wagon Entertainment
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|Distributor||Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films|
“What makes you different makes you dangerous.”
Another film released from a popular book series. “Divergent” is the first installment from author Veronica Roth, and it details the story of a futuristic world where all people are split into factions. These factions are based primarily around personality, and the genuine heart of the person. Similar to “The Hunger Games,” reaping ceremony and also the Sorting Hat in “Harry Potter,” it features young people having to make a life altering decision that not only shapes who they exist with, but how they live their lives.
Erudite are the smart ones that rely on knowledge. Dauntless are the warrior police that maintain order through bravery. Candor tell the truth, even when you don’t want them to. Amity are peacemakers, and Abnegation are selfless in all that they do. These factions are absolute, and there is co-existence between them. “Faction before blood” is the common term. Family means nothing after you choose.
Shailene Woodley plays Beatrice Prior. Her family are Abnegation, but it’s time for her and her brother Caleb to choose their future. Both go in for testing, a process that is supposed to help guide you in your final choice. Beatrice receives inconclusive results as she beats the test. She discovers she is Divergent, a very rare breed that doesn’t naturally fit into any one faction, but has pieces of all of them, and therefore a free mind.
Despite the desperation of their parents that at least one of them stays with their “home faction,” Caleb chooses Erudite, and Beatrice Dauntless. As the family is split, and destined to never see each other again, Beatrice must take on the biggest challenges of her life as the Dauntless leadership put all new recruits through physical and mental tests. But is the faction system really what it seems? Is it as secure and structured as everyone believes it is? And can Beatrice adapt to her new faction despite her obvious individuality?
As far as the morality of “Divergent” goes, I’m supportive. It doesn’t have the controversy of “Harry Potter,” or the violent blood thirst of “The Hunger Games.” It is, however, an environment where young people are broken, altered, and brainwashed. The physical and mental tests of the Dauntless alone are difficult to watch as an adult, because of how you understand fear and what it does to the human mind. Each faction boosts one particular strength in each person, and shreds them of all other humanity.
Violence: This is the most extreme content in this film. Because Beatrice is Dauntless, she faces daily physical and mental torture in order to succeed in her new faction. There are beatings, bare-knuckle fights, threats of death, threats of exclusion and rejection, and severe punishments for any show of fear or quitting. Be aware that even though blood is minimal, and extreme violence is not shown, the level of intense threat and menace is there, and at times I wondered how they get away with this in a PG-13 rated film.
Profanity: Two uses of b**ch, and one a**hole, OMG (3), god (1), “My God” (1).
Sex/Nudity: This was the surprise. They did not flaunt sexuality, despite the attractive characters involved. Innocence was encouraged by Beatrice’s character, and respected by the man who falls for her. We see his bare back, and two scenes of them kissing, but sex is not implied, and even when she sleeps in his room, he takes the floor.
Movies like “Divergent” can help remind us how important humanity is, and how blessed we are to have free will. God gave us free will for a reason. NOT so we could make mistakes and do our own thing, but so that we could learn to be ourselves, and improve ourselves, and who He made us to be. We are made in His image, and the concept of factions to segregate us is not within His will, but it’s a symbol of human control.
We place ourselves in boxes all the time, “I’m an extrovert, an introvert, a rebel, a lazy bum, a know-it-all, a dummy, a redneck, a loser, a sinner.” The list goes on and on. But we faction ourselves into these things so easily without ever giving thought to what that decision costs us in life. God gave us free will so we could choose to follow Him, and to recognize that His way is the best way. He does not box us in, but desires for us to thrive in His image, and in His ways.
“Divergent” is a good reminder of our individuality. But it’s also a good reminder of how we have the capacity to work on ourselves, to challenge the strengths and weaknesses we have, and improve on them. There is a key scene towards the end of the movie where Beatrice has to pass mental fear tests as a true Dauntless would. She has to break her natural being in order to survive. This shows courage and tenacity, and it’s within all of us to break out of the boxes and backgrounds that “define” who we think we are.
“Divergent” is refreshing in its portrayal of love and relationship. The two main characters don’t sleep together at the first possible moment. They don’t sleep together at the last possible moment either. It’s a film painting a true picture of genuine relationship, friendship, family and brotherhood, and how human nature can twist it. We have free will, but we are also given God’s Word to help guide us in His path. His ways are righteous and just, and without Him we will fall.
This is not the greatest movie of the year, or even of the month. But it’s healthy, with a strong message, and good characters who have morality, or who seek to gain it despite having lost it along their journey. It has aspects of forgiveness, and the weakness of human nature. Shailene Woodley’s performance is fantastic. It’s full of life and of passion. She has wonderful chemistry with Theo James, her male co-star. It’s not faultless, but it’s worth a watch.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.