McCoy on Movies: Insurgent

McCoy on Movies: Insurgent

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Is Insurgent, the second film in the Divergent series, strong enough to help propel it to the front of young adult science-fiction/action drama? Click to find out!

“Seriously – I don’ think this is part of the CrossFit class I signed up for!” Tris (Shailene Woodley) gets ensnared – literally – with Jeanine (Kate Winslet) in a scene from director Robert Schwentke’s movie version of THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT. Credit: Andrew Cooper © 2015 Summit Pictures Entertainment




KEY CAST MEMBERS: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Zöe Kravitz, Kate Winslet, Ray Winstone, Ashley Judd, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Mekhi Phifer and Jai Courtney

WRITER(S): Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback (screenplay); Veronica Roth (novel on which the film is based) 

DIRECTOR(S): Robert Schwentke
60 SECOND PLOT SUMMARY (OR AS CLOSE TO THAT TIME AS ONE CAN MAKE IT): Taking place just days after the events of the first film, Insurgent finds Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) on the run with her boyfriend Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller) and brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) after an attack has caught the eye of Jeanine (Kate Winslet), leader of the Erudites. 

Who are the Erudite, you ask? Well, if you had seen the first film in the Divergent series, you would know that the Erudites are one of five factions living in a dystopian future Chicago walled off from the rest of the world. Society has inevitably (as always is the case it seems in these type of movies) broken down, fallen apart and resulted in tribes, er “factions,” as a result. The Erudite are supposed to be the most intelligent, the Candor are the most honest, Amity are the peaceful ones, Abnegation are selfless and the Dauntless are the brave (a.k.a. soldiers and police). 

If you are like Tris, however, you are “divergent,” which means you test into belonging into too many factions – which makes you a potential troublemaker since you will upset the balance of society. Then again, you could test to be factionless, which means you’re also an outcast. Got it? Good. Let’s continue …

With Jeanine looking to keep power for the Erudites – well, mostly herself, really – Tris came to realize what being Divergent meant once her parents’ faction was raided and they were killed. Realizing how evil Jeanine is, she wants revenge and to get her out of power along with Four, a fellow former Dauntless recruit. Thing is, Jeanine isn’t going down without a fight – especially not after she discovers a mystery box Tris’ mother (Ashley Judd) was willing to die for as long as it stayed out of the wrong hands. 

But now of course, it is in the wrong hands … And Jeanine is going to need someone Divergent to help her open it …

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Those who enjoyed the first Divergent film; Woodley and James fans; people who find The Hunger Games movies to be a bit too over-the-top and/or cheesy; fans of young adult (YA) sci-fi
WHO WONT (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who find the series to be too much like The Hunger Games; those who don’t like it when movies take major liberties with the original source material; those who want more gunplay and/or grit in their sci-fi films; people who are over the whole “dystopian future where teens must save us thing.” 
SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? If – IF! – you’re not too familiar or hung up on all the changes from the original Insurgent novel and don’t mind the young adult dystopian future thing, Insurgent is not that bad … Especially considering how it kind of makes another film it’s mockingjay …

Here’s what Insurgent has going for it that it does better when compared to its main rival in the whole “the future is awful, so let’s have this girl save us” genre: [1] The chemistry – both romantic and as rebels – between Woodley and James is about 10 times better than it is between Jennifer Lawrence’s and Liam Hemsworth’s respective characters in the latest Games installment; [2] Woodley’s character has fully embraced her rebel leader status, which in effect makes her, for lack of a better word, “cooler” – especially given the amount of angst and self-discovery her character takes; [3] Director Robert Schwentke’s visuals are eye-popping at times during Tris’ simulation sequences, which helps to bring the story to its arc in pretty remarkable fashion and [4] The layers to Insurgent, while not bny any means perfect, deliver a film that is more solid on both a sci-fi and YA level. 

That being said, are there flaws? Sure – Octavia Spencer is not utilized on any great level, some of the actions taken by Jeanine’s security make you wonder how they have not been overthrown long ago and Ansel Elgort is either doing a phenomenal job at making Caleb a complete wimp … Or the character is just boring, uninteresting and a waste as currently offered. 

Now, if you haven’t read the books like yours truly, you won’t notice the changes from the original Insurgent novel and likely not care about them … However, if you ARE one of those “this is not like the book!” people, the film’s producers and its author know you are likely going to notice. Whether or not that ultimately ruins the experience for you is solely up to you … But if you simply are concerned whether or not the movie stays true to the spirit of its characters (Tris in particular), is entertaining and delivers a copious amount of well-executed action sequences, you should be satisfied. 

As opposed to writing a dissertation about the film and what it has to say about the need for the elements of life its factions struggle with, oppression, the idea of isolation vs. integration … Sorry, I kind of started to get lost on a tangent there. Instead of doing that, all you simply need to know about Insurgent is this: It’s the rare sequel that expands upon its original premise, delivers some rather intriguing interactions and features a solid enough acting/directing job to get you through from start to finish. It sets the stage nicely for the third – and let’s be honest, no matter how good you think Insurgent is, three films will be enough – and likely final film, Allegiant

And that should be pleasing to the ears of everyone who enjoyed Divergent, regardless of the faction they would claim. 


Tabari McCoy
Columnist - Tabari McCoy is Cincy Chic's movie critic. An award-winning stand-up comedian who also works as the public relations director at Cincinnati Museum Center, Tabari McCoy is the creator of McCoy on Movies, a blog about movies for film fans. The blog is written by someone who also likes movies that is smart enough to know his opinion isn't always the right one but is willing to express that opinion in public. McCoy also used to review movies for his college paper and a major metropolitan publication, so that helps add to his "street cred." Contact him at You can also check out more of his work on his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @tabarimccoy.