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Insurgent picks up immediately where Divergent left off. The “divergent” heroine Tris (Shaliene Woodley) is on the run from Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and the evil enforcers of her strictly enforced, segregation-centric societal system. Her ultimate goal is to stop Jeanine, but to do so, she must seek refuge, fight simulations and meet new faces.
While it isn’t as aggravating as its predecessor, most of this sequel’s (thankfully) trimmed runtime is largely unchanged in content, which makes for an utterly rote and dreary experience. Insurgent’s biggest problem is its lack of passion, from both the actors and the filmmakers. Shaliene Woodley phones it in, Miles Teller’s occasional snippets of wit are amusing, Theo James is plainly bad, Jai Courtney is Jai Courtney, and Kate Winslet delivers what is probably one of the worst acting moments of her career in a laughably bad yelling session. Some of the special effects are pretty good, though always too flashy, but behind the sheen of shallow professionalism, it’s clear that this film only exists to take the cash of fans and middle-schoolers.
Despite the premise’s inherent problems (how would one even think a society structure like this would work?), there is a lot of potential on paper. In execution, the film’s plot points feel like boxes being checked – this one advances the plot, this one pleases fans of the series, etc. – it’s all devoid of any motivation.
The filmmaking itself is equally bland in style, complete with stark white interiors and a woefully bland color palette. As mentioned, the special effects are good, but it seems as if the film’s entire budget was put towards these moments of visual spectacle, instead of maybe hiring better writers or actors.
In short, Insurgent is more of the same, with 20 minutes shaved off. So, in that sense, it succeeds; though such minor gains are hardly worth a dime when the original content is as shallow as it is.