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Movie Review

It's nice to know your place in the world. Or so Tris imagines. After all, she's has never had that comfort—even in a dystopian world where everyone's supposed to know their place.

Insurgent's society—set in the decaying, fenced-off city of Chicago—has been split into five factions: Abnegation (where the selfless folks go), Amity (peaceful farmers), Candor (honest judges), Dauntless (for the courageous and athletic), and Erudite (the smart ones). But even though Tris was raised in the Abnegation faction and was accepted into Dauntless, she never felt wholly at home in either place. That's because she is, it turns out, Divergent—a blend of characteristics from more than one faction.

Divergents fall outside the norm. They're impossible to control. And, according to Jeanine (who leads the new ruling faction, Erudite), that makes them dangerous. So Jeanine's got plans to take care of the Divergent problem ... once and for all.

Tris and her Divergent beau, Four, are well aware of Jeanine's chilling plan. So they're on the lam, constantly dodging their adversary's overzealous Dauntless stormtroopers. They soon discover that many of their society's so-called Factionless folks—other disenfranchised souls who don't fit this dystopian society's neat categories—are arming for revolt. And the rebellion's being led by none other than Four's own mother.

Hundreds of soldiers, it turns out, remain loyal to Four, a brave former Dauntless leader. And the populace is growing increasingly agitated by Jeanine's overreach. In fact, it looks as if the whole faction system may be gasping its last. If Tris and her kind can't fit into this version of civilization, maybe they can make their own.

But Jeanine still has an ace to play.

Centuries before, the society's founders left a box with a secret message inside, a box that can only be opened by a Divergent. Jeanine assumes that it'll contain something she can use against her category-busting foes, some horrid proof that they're the bane of existence, a bit of propaganda to throw in their faces, something. Once that little box is unscrewed, Jeanine believes, she'll have all the moral authority she needs to make everything all nice and neat and, most importantly, Divergent-free.

Alas, the box keeps killing the Divergents she sends to deal with it. Maybe, Jeanine reasons, just maybe she needs someone who's an especially extra-divergent Divergent to pry the thing open.

Someone, like ... I dunno, Tris?

Positive Elements

Tris is indeed the key to the box, as she embodies the strengths of all five factions. But her self-sacrificial nature is perhaps her most striking character trait. When Jeanine's government puts innocent lives in jeopardy, Tris is willing to lay her own life down for the greater good. When she's given opportunity to kill a hated traitor, she passes, letting the guy live (and giving him the opportunity to perform his own good deed a little later). She may be fiercely angry and deeply hurt, but her overriding motivation is love—love for Four, for her family, for the outcast people she feels compelled to protect.

If Tris feels responsible for, well, almost everybody, Four takes on Tris as his responsibility. He's determined to help her survive and thrive. When an mob of Factionless argue that it'd be best to turn Tris over to Jeanine, Four says they'll have to go through him first. People quip that Four is Tris' "angry boyfriend," but it's a righteous, protective anger, and he clearly gives his all for her.

Meanwhile, Johanna, leader of Amity, protects Tris, Four and others as long as she's able, even as she stays true to her own values. "I will not be a party to violence," she says. Jack Kang, head of Candor, puts Tris and Four on trial for alleged crimes against the Abnegation faction, but helps them once he's determined that they're innocent. Help sometimes comes from other unexpected places, too. And even though she died in Divergent, Tris' mother still proves to be a kind, loving influence.

Spiritual Content

One of the central conflicts in the film has to do with Tris' guilt for her parents' deaths. Though she's clearly not, she feels responsible, and she struggles to let go of her guilt. Johanna counsels, "To be Amity is to forgive, others and yourself." I'll note that Tris sees her mother again in the context of dreams and, most critically, in a virtual reality test. During the test, she confesses her deepest fears to her mom and tells her how much she misses her. "I'm still with you," her mother replies. During a lie detector test at Candor headquarters, Jack Kang echoes John 8:32 when he repeatedly says, "May the truth set you free."

Sexual Content

Tris and Four, it seems, have sex. They kiss while sitting on a bed. Both remove their shirts (revealing her bare back and a bit of her torso), and we see a bit of their foreplay (kissing, clutching, etc.) and them asleep afterwards. The two lovers kiss and caress elsewhere, too, and are seen lying in the same bed, Four's arms draped around Tris' chest as they sleep together. (Both are clothed.) Tris (and other women) wear cleavage-baring and curve-hugging outfits; she's seen in a nightgown. We also glimpse Tris' bare shoulders as she showers.

Violent Content

The world of Insurgent is essentially a world at war, with much of the violence that suggests. But some of the most intense conflicts take place within virtual reality simulations that draw from combatants' own fears, relationships and memories.

The VR procedure involves cords snaking through a hole in the ceiling, and needles at the cord tips stabbing into Divergents' bodies, injecting powerful drugs and transmitting information to onlooking Erudites. The subject is then lifted by the cords into the air, where sometimes he or she shudders and shakes while facing various mind-game trials and tribulations. The process causes trauma severe enough to cause blood to ooze out of noses and ears. And it's almost always fatal; we watch one doomed Divergent die with a sudden snap. When we see inside these ominous, drug-induced dreamscapes, we see such things as a flaming building flying through the air while someone's trapped inside. There are shootouts and fistfights.

Back in the real world, several people are executed at gunpoint. Tris puts a pistol to her head and threatens to kill herself to foil Jeanine's plans. Others who have been injected with mind-control devices also try to commit suicide. (And one person succeeds, falling from a great height to her death.) Jeanine's soldiers gun down a group of Candors, after which we see these victims lying, apparently lifeless, in rooms and hallways. [Spoiler Warning: They're not dead, just drugged.] Tris, Four and Caleb (Tris' brother) are shot at by soldiers and fight violently with Factionless rebels. Caleb seems to kill one, hitting him over and over with a pipe.

Legs are broken. Gun fights and fistfights proliferate, the former claiming many lives. One person's face gets smashed against a glass wall, leaving his nose bloodied and a smear of red across the clear surface. Another's face gets slashed with a knife. Four and Tris are injected with a truth serum, and we see the needle going into their necks. The serum causes tremendous pain if the subjects are disinclined to tell the truth. People talk about assassinating Jeanine.

Crude or Profane Language

Someone gets really close to saying the f-word. There are two s-words, and one or two each of "d--n" and "h---."

Drug and Alcohol Content

As mentioned, injected drugs are used for a variety of purposes. Wine is served at a fancy dinner.

Other Negative Elements

Tris and others lie, and people betray their friends.


The Divergent Series: Insurgent is an inconsistent and sometimes pointlessly action-drenched movie that, frankly, doesn't always make a lot of sense. It certainly doesn't live up to the first Divergent film, which wasn't completely coherent to begin with. And this isn't just a plot and artistry judgment; the second installment is harsher in terms of content, too.

A relatively high body count includes characters who are essentially executed. And there's the clear intimation that Tris and Four consummate their affection, pouring role model-endorsed fuel on the fire that is teens' real-world sexual impulses.

At the same time, Tris also stands as an example of the beauty of diversity and the power of paradox. In her, we see a heroine who's both strong and vulnerable, one who longs for peace but is still willing to fight for what is right. She embodies determination and insight and courage and grace and mercy all bound up together.

Focusing on that last item on the list, one of her enemies says Tris' greatest weakness is her tendency to show mercy. Raised in Abnegation, Tris strives to save those who need saving—even if the cost is life itself. And the movie defies that foe, demonstrating that Tris' desire to save and her willingness to sacrifice for others isn't a weakness, but a strength. It also illustrates the importance of relinquishing guilt from the past, especially, in Tris' case, when the things she feels guilty about weren't really her fault to begin with.

These themes may sound familiar to Christians. And Veronica Roth, author of The Divergent Series, is reported to be among that number. So perhaps it should be expected that we see mercy, sacrifice and forgiveness become important parts of this series. But are they enough to compensate for or redeem Insurgent's content issues?

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Shailene Woodley as Tris; Theo James as Four; Kate Winslet as Jeanine; Miles Teller as Peter; Ansel Elgort as Caleb; Jai Courtney as Eric; Mekhi Phifer as Max; Octavia Spencer as Johanna; Daniel Dae Kim as Jack Kang; Naomi Watts as Evelyn


Robert Schwentke ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

March 20, 2015

On Video

August 4, 2015

Year Published



Paul Asay

Content Caution

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