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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Divergent

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This one came as a bolt out of the blue. It’s set in the near future, after the end of the apocalypse that general consensus – at least in film and literature – agrees is looming.

Chicago is a walled city. The population is divided into five occupational factions, as in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (for mine a frightening and much darker vision of where we are headed than George Orwell’s more frequently cited but simplistic and rather preachy 1984).

Tris (Shailene Woodley) has been raised in Abnegation, the sect that is assigned the tasks of caring for the sick and needy. As a rite of passage, like all teenagers, she must be psychologically evaluated before deciding with which group her adult allegiance will lie.

The examination shows that she is, by nature, a divergent who is outside the standard categorisations. Here is the rebel hook that the teenage audience, at which the fable is aimed, can immediately latch on to – everybody wants to be different (it is the most bankable concept in popular culture).

Tris chooses to join Dauntless, the protectors, and it is among them that she meets the fabulously handsome Four (Theo James).

Most of the movie takes place at the new inductees’ boot-camp, as their physical and temperamental suitability is put to the test, while the sub-text of societal control and upheaval bubbles away.

The unavoidable comparison is with The Hunger Games (the first one, rather than the disappointing sequel), not simply because it has as its protagonist a young woman who will not be broken by the bullying system in which she finds herself (Tris and Katniss are from the same mould).

It is similarly successful for the way in which director Neil Burger so convincingly creates Tris’s world and stays true to it throughout.

There is also a refreshing priority given to character, story and theme over mindless CGI. Check it out, if only to see how Tris deals with Kate Winslet at the end.

Go you good girl!

John Campbell


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