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Blu-ray Review: Divergent

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Shailene Woodley can’t leave the men alone, can she? She hooks up with Ansel Elgort in syrupy cancer-drama The Fault in Our Stars, and here he is starring in Divergent as her brother (weird). She hooks up with Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now, and here he is starring as her thuggish competitor (awkward). Must be a tough life with all these men competing for her attention in various forms. As if that wasn’t enough, Theo James (who some may know as the man who died from an orgasm in Downton Abbey and as Will Young’s co-star Sky Living’s bizarre horror series Bedlam) is her love interest here, breaking the hearts of teen fans everywhere with his traffic-stopping good looks.

Divergent is unlike The Fault in Our Stars and The Spectacular Now (the latter Disney have still not released in the UK despite premiering it at the London Film Festival nearly a year ago), which are both real-world dramas. This is dystopian teenage adventure stuff, based on the novel by Veronica Roth. It’s in a similar mould to the work of Suzanne Collins and Lauren Oliver. A sinister future awaits us all in these novels of totalitarian states, warped democracies, strange living arrangements and disturbing politics.

The unnerving world Divergent creates is very effective. It shows society split into five groups that suit people’s skills: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (brave) and Erudite (intellectual). Tris Prior (a name that has the same far-fetched ring about it as Katniss Everdeen) is in a difficult situation: she has more than one skill. And if anyone finds this out BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.

It’s easy to make fun of this kind of thing, but in truth director Neil Burger (who brought us the sumptuous period drama The Illusionist and the annoying Bradley Cooper vehicle Limitless) brings so much flare and style to the table you forget the more ridiculous aspects. There is also a fantastic performance from Kate Winslet as the obligatory villain; this is the type of role she does brilliantly in but rarely gets to do.

Though he has a preposterous name that makes him sound like an overweight heroin addict, Junkie XL does very interesting things with the music score, blending in pre-composed backing tracks with new orchestral numbers. One can also clearly see, or rather hear, the guiding hand of Hans Zimmer (billed as Executive Music Producer).

There will be some who snobbishly disregard this as teen rubbish, but I generally see it as a great thing that young audiences are engaging with atmospheric, challenging and sometimes beautifully made content such as this. The story is gripping, it looks great, and the door is left tantalisingly open for the sequel (currently in development). Divergent has quality on its side.

A note on the disc: Divergent was shot on the Arri Alexa digital camera and transfered in High Definition to Blu-ray disc at 1080p. The image is exceptionally clear, as one would expect with a 2014 movie release on BD. The extras include a number of featurettes and 'Making Of' documentaries, with the most interesting being 'The Look of Divergent'. In an age when so many releases are just bare-bones movies, it's nice to get some good, entertaining extras. 

Divergent (2014), directed by Neil Burger, is released on Blu-ray, DVD and VoD in the UK by Entertainment One, Certificate 12. 



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