“Divergent” and Shailene Woodley succeeds in being a vulnerable, action-packed thriller

When you live in a world free to choose who you want to be, the act of taking a test that determines who you are–or supposed to be–can be frightening. Whether you are chosen to embrace your dauntlessness, selflessness, intelligence, compassion or utter failure as a “faction-less,” you lack the freedom to find your own path in this world. Unless your results are inconclusive and harboring qualities of each of the factions, you are conceived as “divergent”–someone the government is unable and afraid to control. The only way to solve that problem is to rid of you.

So, what are you to do?

Based on Veronica Roth’s 2011 novel, Divergent creates this factioned world as a prison set off from the previously populated and fenced-off, ruined-city Chicago skyline. Communities and cliques of people live civilly within their factions with the motto, “Faction over blood.” Those who are inclined to follow “human nature” are considered weak, as Kate Winslet’s character Jeanine, belonging to the governing Erudite, so sternly puts.

As the good-natured, girl-next-door who finds no vanity in her image but knows when to stand up and speak up for what is right, I have to say that there’s something strangely beautiful and comforting about Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of Beatrice, turned “Tris.” Her role lays testament to the ever-growing trend of female power and growing motivations, portraying females as strong women with good hearts. Her intense vulnerability and youth sympathizes with the audience, as she follows her own good conscience–much like any of us would do with common human sense. It’s an admirable quality. And the oppression she faces and sees in front of her only pushes you to want to root for her to rebel against the system, in a sleek and smart way hiding under detection.

Tris has been raised as a member of the Abnegation faction who values self-sacrifice, as opposed to the other four: Erudite (intense knowledge, intelligence), Candor (embracing honesty), Amity (naturally peaceful, simple people), and Dauntless (fearless warriors–much the cool, tattooed rebels who anyone wanting to be “cool” would want to be a part of).

As her chosen faction of the Dauntless embraces carefree, courageous and brave “warrior-like” attributes, she embodies each of the elements as we see her struggling in some parts of her faction but still, somehow, being “too good” and too smart for them. As self-sacrificial, brilliant and strong all at the same time, it’s hard for this dystopian society to put a finger on her.

Woodley proves to be very compelling, I find, as she shows us what a modest, fearful yet daring woman would look like as someone who is otherwise seen as bookish. And, as she at first struggles only then to succeed in the series of tests given her to prove herself Dauntless, her unfailing success with her many “un-daunt-like” attributes ensure her success. This difference, in particular, catches an eye. And for her dauntless mentor Four, played by Theo James Franco, you can spot a divergent when you sense it–you can even find relation and salvation in that person.

The film itself is full of adventures and thrills of skills and tests to see how far one can go within the system. The divergents obligingly follow orders to hide detection, as we’re given a heart-warming story of growth, strength and standing up for what is right with a couple attractive faces along the way. The budding friendships and relationships that develop are also comforting to see as you can find you aren’t entirely alone while you live in fear of being the only one who doesn’t quite fit into one “thing.”

Woodley, also, lets us feel as if we are in her shoes, as her compelling ability to relate and sympathize with audiences makes her character a triumphant one. We see her struggle and fall, awkwardly do things her body can’t physically handle, experience heart-wrenching moments fighting for your family while falling under romance with fears of intimacy, her perseverance ultimately outshines all others to prove that her divergence is a rare gem of a quality.

I have to admit that I have been falling in love with Shailene Woodley’s work. I never quite saw her work in ABC Family’s The Secret Life, but her innocent and honestly-played role in last year’s The Spectacular Now, hinting qualities of an innocent good-girl like Jamie Sullivan in A Walk to Remember, makes me love her role in Divergent as she embraces her goodness and fearlessness to stand up at the right moments to fight for what’s right. Her roles–at least to me–can inspire good conscience and a pure honesty to embrace the goodness of your own soul–what you feel is true to you. And, it’s simply just inspiring to experience an adrenaline-rush of a story while growing and sympathizing with a character that you can see so much of yourself in. When you’re able to put yourself into the shoes of a character on-screen, you picture yourself behaving in the same way. And there’s no better escape than to feel like you’re accomplishing something, in some other world or part of your mind.

This movie, I find, is a fun, action-packed thriller with a lot of heart, emotion and humanity. Leaning on The Hunger Games bandwagon, this film still offers something a little different, offering more human relation and vulnerability that we all can identify within Woodley’s character. And relation to a character, while delving yourself within an emotionally-grabbing storyline, can accomplish a lot.

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