Insurgent 3D, film review: There's no sag in the middle for this inventive sci-fi trilogy

(12A) Robert Schwentke, 119 mins. Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Jai Courtney
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If you get over its derivative feel and its strong resemblance to The Hunger Games, this teen-movie sequel – the second of four parts – has plenty going for it. The early scenes are very predictable.

Doughty heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley), Tobias (Theo James) and their fellow rebels are on the run, hiding out from the wicked witch-like Jeanine (Kate Winslet) in rural isolation with the "Amity" community.

Where the film really picks up momentum is during its mind-bending, Altered States-like finale, in which Tris takes a series of psychological, virtual reality tests which require her to show qualities of all the five factions – abnegation, candour, amity, dauntlessness and erudition.

 

The director Robert Schwentke, taking over from Neil Burger, stages these hallucinatory scenes with a verve and visual imagination that rekindles memories of old Donald Cammell or Ken Russell movies. Tris is confronted with figures from her past and, at one stage, even has to tussle with her own doppelgänger.

As The Hunger Games and The Hobbit have shown, the middle parts of a trilogy (or, as in this case, a trilogy with its final source novel split into two films) often tends to feel vaguely unsatisfactory, a staging post more than a destination in its own right.

But at least Insurgent has very lively performances from Woodley as the action heroine, James as her square-jawed beau, Ansel Elgort (Woodley's co-star from The Fault in Our Stars) as her detached brother Caleb and Miles Teller (from Whiplash) as the Iago-like Peter.

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