Movie Review and Interview by Beau Behan:
- Divergent (2014), PG-13, 139 min, Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
- Opening Nationwide, Mar 21, 2014
Divergent is an action-adventure film that takes place in a dystopian future – a post-war Chicago 100 years from now. People are divided into five distinct factions that are based on primary human character traits: Dauntless (brave warriors), Erudite (smart, placing knowledge above everything else), Amity (showing love and kindness), Candor (all about honesty), and Abnegation (selflessness).
The film's heroine, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), is born into the Abnegation clan, and when she undergoes the mandatory aptitude test required of all teens, her test results are inconclusive. Exhibiting massive doses of complex strains of varying human traits, she will never fit into any of these five factions. She is what this society labels a Divergent.
At an annual coming-of-age ritual known as the Choosing Ceremony, teens pick their choice of a faction regardless of the test results. Tris chooses to become a Dauntless initiate who must train in survival and warfare techniques. She meets the handsome Dauntless trainer, Four (Theo James). She finds him rather stoic and mysterious, but she quickly learns that she must trust him. Four will become her best ally to fight the conspiracy against all Divergents.
The filmmakers predicted it would take a worldwide hunt to find the actress to play Tris. However, when they met Woodley, they were sold.
Woodley’s screen presence in the 2011 film, The Descendants, was so powerful, she clinched a Golden Globe nomination. Divergent is her first non-indie film. What makes it more compelling is that she is carrying this movie as the number one on the call sheet and she is in almost every frame of the movie.
“Shailene has a real young quality about her,” said Director Neil Burger. “She’s very real; she’s a hugger, and she means it.”
Coincidentally, this is a distinctive trait of the Abnegation faction, to which her character is born.
However, Burger needed more. He needed an actress who could also be a believable warrior as a dauntless. Woodley answered this with a resounding “yes.” She is adventurous, and has a keen interest in being a survivalist. A little background sealed the deal: “Shai has hunted, and she’s lived off the grid.”
“Ultimately what drew me to this movie,” Woodley said, “is that it’s very metaphorical to things that are happening today that I’m very excited to bring to light. Reading Divergent, I became very passionate about Tris and the story.”
Next on the casting agenda was to search for the warrior Four. The filmmakers needed an actor who exudes rugged and handsome masculinity – of course – under a veil of mystery. Burger also mentioned that they needed “somebody who could really go toe-to-toe” with Woodley because of her fierce determination as an actress.
Apparently, James’s name did not come up until after many others had auditioned.
Since James’s cameo in an episode of PBD phenom Downton Abbey in 2010, he has captivated the hearts of fans from around the world. Probably, most of them, could easily forgive Lady Mary for sleeping with Mr. Pamuk. Why not? After all, Theo James was even named as one of Hollywood’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2013 by People magazine.
Divergent author, Veronica Roth – who also shares a writing credit for the film – thought James was “perfect” for the role of Four; especially because of the “incredibly good chemistry” the leads shared.
James is very charismatic and demonstrates a quick wit. During the movie’s press conference in Los Angeles, he was asked what name he would rather have for his character in the movie instead of Four. He quickly responded that he would choose “One” because it would be more legendary.
Divergent projects a very electrifying screen presence between Woodley and James. Moviegoers will feel their great chemistry, and finally realize that the brave and strong young woman has fallen hard for that mysterious hunk.