“Divergent” takes place in future dystopian Chicago, where everyone is sorted into and classified by faction. The Erudite are smart, the Dauntless are fearless, the Amity are peaceful, the Candor are honest, and the Abnegation are selfless. Each faction has its own rules in society, and the only time someone can change factions is during the choosing ceremony when they turn 16. If one chooses to leave his or her faction, they are not allowed to return home. In this case, they become one of the “factionless.”
The movie’s main character, Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodly), is unsure of where she wants to go during the choosing. She grew up in Abnegation but never felt like she completely belonged there. She takes a simulation test to help her decide and happens upon a problem: Her test results are inconclusive, meaning she tested equally for three different factions. She is one of the Divergent and must try to hide that to keep herself safe.
The performances of Woodly as Beatrice “Tris” and Theo James as Tobias, known as “Four,” let the audience connect with the characters. Woodly’s performance depicts exactly what readers of the book expect out of her defiant and complex character as she makes the transition to a new faction and leaves her family behind. James delivers the tough yet caring Four, who has his own secrets.
“Divergent” also has supporting cast members who deliver strong performances, including Maggie Q, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgrot, Meki Phifer, Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet. All of the actors further the motives and interests of their characters in this compartmentalized world.
One problem with the movie is the questions that are left unanswered. Why are there different factions? Why is there a wall around the city? Why are the Divergent so dangerous? To be fair, these questions are also unanswered in the book and are only revealed in the sequels, “Insurgent” and “Allegiant.” The movie also moves rather slowly as it unfolds the world of “Divergent,” although similar plot progression is found in the book. The intent is to set the stage for the action that will come later.
The movie also does not let viewers connect deeply with the characters Christiana (Zoë Kravits), Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and Al (Christian Madsen). The movie seems to be more focused on the Tris and Four storylines without thought about their friends.
Although the plot certainly could have been more streamlined for the sake of keeping viewers interested, the movie follows the book well. A few changes to some scenes helped to keep the movie on pace, but more changes could have been made.
Previous to the film’s release, many had been saying that “Divergent” had the potential to be a successful movie franchise comparable to The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. If that prediction is to come true, the next two movies will have to make up for the film’s downfalls: the lack of character depth for supporting characters, slow pace and a few unanswered questions.