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Divergent:Thoughtful science-fiction adventure

02:02 PM Jun 01, 2019 | Free Press Journal Correspondant

Film:
Divergent

Cast:
Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer

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Director:
Neil Burger

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Through the ages, social groups have been classified on the basis of   functions, attributes, scope and stability. The groups in “Divergent” a thoughtful sci-fi action adventure based on first time novelist Veronica Roth’s bestseller are  ascription-based (i.e., based on who or what you are ), instead of  crafts /achievement-based i.e., based on what you do (as in the guilds of medieval Germany ) 

Helmed by Neil  (“Limitless”) Burger, the film adaptation follows the structural, thematic and stylistic patterns of The Hunger Games ( strong female protagonist in a dystopian setting) to explore adult authority and identity within  youth’s relationship to parents,peers and other social groups. But unlike HG’s Katniss who is fully conscious of her role  in the scheme of things,  Beatrice “Tris” Prior  feels like a square peg in a round hole in post-apocalyptic  Chicago which aggregates its citizens into five  different factions:Abnegation ( for the service-oriented who rule) Amity, ( peaceloving farmers); Candor, ( honest who become lawyers and judge);Dauntless, (the brave who defend citizens); and Erudite ( scholars who administer schools. )

Divergent’s  major plot device, the division of society into personality types, is similar to Philip K. Dick’s  novel Clans of the Alphane Moon and Rupert Thomson’s Divided Kingdom.  Our Tris  is the titular  multi-talented”divergent”,  which, as Maggie Q  tells her in hushed tones after an inconclusive aptitude test,  must not be revealed to anyone, not even her loving parents ( Judd & Goldwyn) (Just why, viewers discover later)  Uncertain, she opts for the soldierly Dauntless where new recruits are trained by a young man who answers to the name of “Four” ( Theo James,endearing)  In popular numerology,fours are supposed to be laidback  and  roguish but the celluloid Four is neither.  His real name is Tobias and he is, rather, someone, who has been traumatised by an abusive (Abnegation!) father and finds himself drawn to Tris. The attraction is mutual.But Tris also shows the very desirable virtue of chastity and tells Four she wants “to take things slow.”

The Erudites headed by Jeanine (Winslet)  Matthews decree the  factions are fixed and immutable ( as in India’s ossified caste system)  “The future belongs to those who know where they belong,” declares Jeanine. “The system removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will.” In other words, the indies (  Divergents ) will be eliminated. And boys don’t have to think twice about beating girls to a pulp. The rest who don’t or can’t fit in anywhere are cast off to the margins,literally and figuratively. This will resonate with young people ( especially, dare I say it, Indians) who are pressurised by having to choose between following in their parents’ footsteps or pursuing  something new.

Divergent  thus addresses the eternally-relevant subject of contested identity and self-discovery through the framework of  fantasy.Ultimately, the danger posed by the fascist Erudites ( who attempt a coup by resorting to mind control and mass murder)  is overcome by self-sacrifice, heroism and concern for the helpless and for loved ones.  Shailene Woodley (last seen as George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants,catch her on TV’s Secret Life of the American Teenager )  is excels as the shy misfit who grows into a strong,determined  fighter with a heart.The supporting cast is impressive, look out for youthful cast especially the singer  Lenny ( Hunger Games)  Kravitz’s daughter Zoe as the ultra-candid Christina; as well as Judd as Dauntless turned Abnegator  and Winslet as the power-hungry dominatrix.          ronitatorcato@gmail.com

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