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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Insurgent, Review: Prior knowledge

Insurgent, Review: Prior knowledge

Metaphors, here, metaphors there, metaphors everywhere. Besides metaphors, there’s a lot of pain and anguish and a large take-away moral in Insurgent: unity in diversity/let a thousand flowers bloom/different does not mean bad or hostile/religion or caste should preach respect and love for others, not hatred. In that milieu, the appropriate title for the second coming, Divergent being the first foray, should have been Convergent. Obviously, that would also suggest that the franchise is now exhausted. Divergent and then Convergent—QED. But at the end of the second edition, it is amply clear that the production house is in no hurry to abandon the milk-worthy series just yet. So what can we expect next? Allegiant (apparently already decided, with a suffix--Part I), Resurgent, …? Well, they have a year to think about it, at least, so the matter is not Urgent.

Picking up from where Divergent left off, Tris, a.k.a. Beatrice Prior, has killed her friend Will, stopped a nasty simulation, and started a whole series of (unfortunate) events that will change the city forever. But first, Tris and her friends need to hide. They're fugitives from what passes as the law around Chicago. They find refuge in the Amity compound. Tris's first action, after her wounds are tended to, is to cut her hair. Erudite arrives with a band of Dauntless traitors. They're looking for Tris and company, and a huge fight breaks out. Tris and her buddies escape the Amity compound and find themselves on a midnight train to a Factionless safe house. Tris and Four (two others drop out of the mission early on) are now fugitives on the run, hunted by Jeanine, the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris’s family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them.

Tris goes to the Candor headquarters with Four, to find out what's going on. There, they are arrested for revolt, on the orders of Jeanine, and are to be handed over to her. But in a master stroke, Four suggests to the Candor leader Jack Kang that they are innocent of the charge of revolt, and that he should verify this claim by administering the truth serum to both of them, before handing them over to Jeanine. The leader is at first reluctant, but finally agrees. Both are injected with the serum and forced to confess everything, like the fact that Tris had to kill Will. This shocks her friend Christina, who loved Will, and believed that he was only missing, not dead. Kang decides to free them, but Erudite and Dauntless are not going to let them leave so easily.

After Divergent director Neil Burger opted not to return for the follow-up, Robert Schwentke stepped in to replace him. Born in Germany, Robert Schwentke moved to the United States to study at Columbia College and the American Film Institute. His first feature film was Tattoo (2002). He then made Eierdiebe (2003), followed by Flightplan (2003), The Time Traveler's Wife (2009), RED (2010), Conspiracy of Fools (2011) and R.I.P.D. (2013). There are no major jolts in blending the two parts seamlessly. His fixation for the heroine’s face is a bit much, but that cannot be considered a flaw. Scenes of sci-fi, synchronised in potent live-action, are well-executed. Actors perform keeping their roles in character. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to distinguish one faction from the other and a couple of events demand viewing of the first film. The climax and the scenes preceding it are highlights and immensely watchable.

Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback have done a creditable job of adapting Veronica Roth’s novel. As is only to be expected, some portions are completely left out, for the sake of pace and length, as well as repetition of part I. 3D is okay, but not as awesome as one might demand from a film of such credentials. Both technology and human emotions are repetitive, yet one does get pulled-in by the novelty of the gizmos. Traditional Greek drama elements are less compelling. The death of Eric, the struggle of Tris on top of the burning house and the scene when Tris confronts herself, and her sub-conscience,  stand out.

Kate Winslet plays Jeanine, the power-crazy leader, and none of the Titanic baggage can slows her down. Shailene Woodley and Theo James have almost equal exposure. Though the chemistry is more apparent in Woodley, James is strong and slightly under-stated. Jai Courtney as Jeanine’s enforcer is menacing and macho. Of the two Tris+Four team members who desert and even switch loyalties, Ansel Elgort as Caleb is better defined. Miles Teller as Peter is passable, but it is not a Whiplash performance, by any stretch of imagination. Janet McTeer is a mysterious Edith Prior, who seems to have Prior knowledge of the contents of the sequel and holds the key to the next chapter. From among the large supporting cast, Ashley Judd and Naomi Watts are known faces and established actresses who add value.

Rating: *** ½


Released in Imax 3D, Real 3D and 2D formats.


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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