A still from ‘Allegiant’
A still from ‘Allegiant’

Film review: Allegiant

By the end of this long and scrambling penultimate part of the 'Divergent' series, you will not care what the factions in a dystopian Chicago are fighting over

The penultimate part of the Divergent series sees director Robert Schwentke (Flightplan, Insurgent) back at the helm of the adaptation of Veronica Roth’s young-adult fiction series. Allegiant succeeds Divergent (directed by Neil Burger) and Insurgent, and precedes Ascendant, the final part of the dystopian series set in a shattered Chicago.

A tall, electrically charged wall that is almost impossible to scale surrounds and seals off a post-apocalyptic Chicago. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are at the centre of the story as they plan their escape over the wall into the unknown world beyond. Meanwhile, the cold-blooded Evelyn (Naomi Watts) takes charge of their fractured home after the death, in Insurgent, of Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and uses ruthless methods to try rebels from two of the factions that have emerged in Chicago, Erudite and Dauntless.

The scene where Tris, Four, Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles Teller) manage to make their way over the wall is one of the highlights of this otherwise sputtering pre-conclusion to a trilogy of books milked beyond their shelf life. But what lies over the wall is not quite the utopia the runaways had imagined.

Running through a ravaged landscape soaked in red rain, the group is rescued and brought to the Bureau of Genetic Welfare (as an aside: Why do all imaginary utopian worlds look scrubbed clean, shiny, chrome and sparsely green, with inhabitants dressed in structured monochrome pantsuits?).

The five are detoxified in a shiny, yet sinister chamber to wash off the toxic red rain and branded with tattoos on their wrists, each one slightly different from the other. Tris is sectioned off, defined as “pure" and introduced to the head of the Bureau, David (Jeff Daniels), who is so obviously dodgy that you wonder why the usually smart Tris has suddenly lost all ability to rationalize and sift safe from unsafe. David is conducting some experiment that Tris’ pure breeding is vital to. The film does not make clear what exactly this experiment and his scheme is.

If divisive labels didn’t already abound with the Chicago factions (Divergent, Erudite, Dauntless, etc.), you now have a new distinction, of Pure (like Tris) and Damaged (everyone inside the wall).

The narrative is long and directionless and then changes abruptly. We see Tris, the pivotal character in the series, dilly-dallying, reluctant to don the hat of a leader. When it finally dawns on her that she is a pawn in David’s plan, she decides it’s time to return to Chicago and save their home.

The series has seen a steady decline from the surprisingly palatable opener, Divergent, with its political metaphors so smoothly handled. It became clunkier with subsequent chapters, losing Tris’ timbre as the feisty messiah figure. Miles Teller continues to bring edge to the untrustworthy and ambitious Peter while Theo James sleepwalks through the part of a “himbo" who mechanically kicks and shoots his way through tough situations.

Back in Chicago, the factions are fighting for something. After Insurgent, I have forgotten what for, and by the end of Allegiant, I could not care less.



Allegiant released in theatres on Friday.

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