Adapted from the opening book of Veronica Roth’s trilogy, Divergent is a rites of passage story with a similar recipe to The Hunger Games.
Neil Burger’s film separates a gung-ho heroine from the people she loves and compels her to undergo a series of gruelling challenges, killing fellow teenagers to ensure her survival.
Spookily, the running time of the two films is almost identical, although this dystopian fantasy earns its 12A certificate without spilling as much innocent blood.
Shailene Woodley, who was deservedly nominated for a Golden Globe opposite George Clooney in The Descendants, is perfectly cast as the teenage protagonist, who leads the rebellion against a corrupt system. She is the beating heart of the slickly engineered film and effortlessly tugs heartstrings in pivotal scenes of loss.
A slow-burning romantic subplot ensures the target audience will swoon as the heroine suffers exquisite pangs of first love, while a tub-thumping denouement sets the scene for the next two instalments.
Divergent feels a smidgen light on exposition and character development but Woodley is terrific.