Sunday, March 23, 2014

DIVERGENT Film Review

Entertainment

DIVERGENT

Loved this movie! It's smart, compelling, well-acted, well-directed, well-paced, and the special effects and action are top-notch. It hit all my sweet spots. In this far-off future, some sort of devastation has hit the world and cut off the remnants of societies from each other. In the setting of DIVERGENT, the city of Chicago, with it's dried out husk of Lake Michigan, is home to ...a self-sufficient society surrounded by an enormous fence purportedly for protection. There is a more sinister implication that it may be more of a containment than a protection.

In this society, their world is separated into 5 factions:

(1) ABNEGATION: This faction values selflessness. In MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) terms, it's probably ISFJ.
(2) DAUNTLESS: This faction values bravery. In MBTI terms, it's probably ESTP.
(3) ERUDITE: This faction values knowledge and logic. In MBTI terms, it's probably INTP.
(4) CANDOR: This faction values honesty and is prone to black and white concrete thinking. In MBTI terms, it's probably ESTJ.
(5) AMITY: This faction values kindness and peace with a willingness to compromise. In MBTI terms, it's probably ESFP.

The poverty-stricken homeless are the forgotten people...the "Factionless," or those who have failed to achieve within their factions and are cast out.

When citizens turn 16 they are required to take an aptitude test to tell them which faction they are genetically predisposed towards. In the end, they do allow each individual to "choose" their faction, but there is clearly pressure from the government and the social peerage not to veer from the results of the test. In rare occasions there our outliers, or "divergents", who have inconclusive results -- they cannot be "typed" into a single faction. The heroine of the story is Tris, who is raised in Abnegation but turns out to be a Divergent (typed as Agnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless) but she has to hide these results or be shunned or possibly worse. She chooses Dauntless because she has always admired them for what appears to be thrills and adventure that she has never experienced before.

There is a lot more going on than she realizes and we track along with her as she moves through the stages of weakness to strength to truth and understanding. She also finds a deep connection with Four (Tobias) who is one of the Dauntless trainers. I'm tempted (in MBTI terms) to type Tris as an ENFJ and Four as an INFJ, which would fit within the percentages of types to the general population.

Basically, this movie tackles the topic of societal controls trying to drive out the outliers (Divergents) who challenge the mass beliefs and authoritarian structures. It is very telling that there is not a faction committed to philosophy or spirituality or self-expression. The society of DIVERGENT is one where all 5 factions are separated not just by type but also segregated into different areas and homogenous clothing styles specific to each faction. The authority gives lip service to the freedom of the individuals to "choose" their path but the system is set up for failure by individualists.

There are some basic visual and stylistic similarities to THE HUNGER GAMES, but I'm going to want to set anyone on the fence about it straight and that is that this is very different. THE HUNGER GAMES deals more directly with the malevolent political manipulations of government and the twisted justifications we make, as humans, for self-indulgence and violence. This story is more about our need to tribalize ourselves and subsume the individual. This is not really about politics but about human nature. The forced separation into factions is driven home with the repeated mantra of "Faction before blood."

Tackling themes like this could easily result in a convoluted and dull film with a lot of over-preachy didactic messaging. The film is structured just right with never a dull moment and quite thought-provoking. If I wasn't worried about over-spoiling I could probably go on all night about it.

★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★

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