The penultimate instalment in the big screen adaptations of Veronica Roth’s bestselling YA novels, The Divergent Series: Allegiant is as dull as films come, hinged on some primary school level ideas and a range of A-list actors left sputtering out meaningless dialogue. After the collapse of the factions and the tyrannical Jeanine (Kate Winslet) now dead, Tris (Shailene Woodley) engineers an escape mission over the wall with Four (Theo James) and her other disciples. Once outside in the harsh wasteland, it’s not long before they’re whisked away to the Bureau of Genetic Warfare.
Tris is singled out and fed lies by bureau head David (Jeff Daniels), while Four slowly uncovers the truth behind the Bureau’s role in Chicago’s continuing demise, making a startling realisation that could bring an end to their city. Resuming at an entirely different place as to where the last instalment ended, Allegiant is nothing if not inconsistent. There’s more plot holes here than in any other YA adaptation, so much so that it becomes tricky to follows who’s good, who’s bad and what exactly the whole point of everything is. By splitting Roth’s final book into two, the screenwriters have dragged out several half-baked ideas into a film that’s only ever intermittently engaging. There are nice touches in the form of a few decent set pieces (the escape from walled Chicago is breathlessly frantic) and well realised technological doohickeys, such as the surveillance software that allows anyone to eavesdrop on any situation – cue lots of exposition-heavy scenes of skilled actors talking about stuff that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Instead of a big bad as with Winslet’s Jeanine, we’re awarded Daniel’s bureaucratic David, who tricks Tris into believing him by the mere mention of her mother. It’s not a bad performance, as Daniel’s has become somewhat accustomed to the character actor role in recent years (and he’s rather good at being sneering and tricksy), but there’s no menace, nothing to make the audience care for what could or could not happen. Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer are also in the mix as two superior leaders who butt heads in a sub plot that could easily have been excised, trimming off around half an hour from the exhaustive and butt-numbing final run time. What’s most irritating, however, is how underused Woodley is.
Arguably the hook of the entire franchise, in Allegiant Tris is relegated to support, making way for Four to enter into all kinds of dangerous missions and unspoken sexual desires with other women, not to mention a weirdly creepy relationship with Evelyn. And when she does appear, it’s either as a subservient to David or as a heroine undone who spends most of her time making bedroom eyes at Four and mapping out the rest of their lives together. It’s arguably not the heroine Roth has in mind, and certainly not the character Woodley imbued with such energy and female empowerment two films ago.
Jamie Neish | @EmptyScreens