cautions: sensuality, violence and intensity, language, and some ethical confusion
Divergent. It’s a word she’d never heard before. It means the test didn’t work. It means her mind can’t be easily controlled. And in the dystopian world of conformism and neatly defined factions, it means dangerous. As the balance of power shifts, naive and inexperienced Tris quickly learns that her survival depends on being different from everyone else, and looking the same. Divergent has some gray areas and unexplained plot elements, but if you’re looking for a decent teenage dystopian thriller, this is the one.
2014 | Neil Burger | 139 min Watch Trailer
Tris asks to see a man’s tattoo. He removes his shirt and she runs her fingers down his tattoo, which covers his back. They then kiss and embrace passionately, he still shirtless. She then tells him, “I don’t want to go too fast,” implying that the situation would have naturally progressed to sexual intimacy. He agrees, and their relationship is less physical after that.
For safety reasons, Tris sleeps once in the man’s room, he taking the floor, although she wakes up with him sitting next to her.
A fear-revealing simulation makes Tris dream that the man goes from kissing and caressing her to running his hands up her shirt, forcing her down onto the bed and getting on top of her as she tries to fight him off. This scene is more intense than sensual, but the intent is clear.
Tris’ awareness of physical contact with group leader Four is emphasized multiple times; for example, adjusting her fighting stance by shifting her torso with his hands. Four is not shown to be conscious of any sensual association at these times.
Girls wear form fitting, somewhat low-cut uniforms, but this is never brought up or emphasized. Girls also occasionally wear fitted shirts or tank tops that reveal some cleavage.
Tris attempts to cover herself while changing clothes in a co-ed environment, but her bare arms, bra and part of her torso can be seen. This is not a sensual scene, but a negatively-portrayed character tries to aggravate her self-consciousness by commenting, “Nice legs,” along with a faction slur (her legs are fully covered but no longer under a long skirt).
A negatively-portrayed character jeers “Yes, take it off!” when Tris has to remove her jacket, but switches to “Put it back on” when she reveals only a plain, high-cut dress.
New trainees are shown to co-ed sleeping quarters with completely open bathrooms (this is not brought up again, however).
Violence and Intensity
People are shot to death. Positively-portrayed characters die in personal ways, and Tris is shown sobbing hysterically. Tris also has to shoot a brainwashed former friend in self defense, and has an emotional breakdown afterward.
A suicide victim is pulled by ropes out of a gorge with some blood on his face. A man is seen dead, with several bullet holes in his body.
Simulations depict intense situations, including attempted rape, drowning, burning at the stake, being attacked by dogs or crows, threatened with abuse from a parent, or forced to shoot an innocent. These scenes are more theoretically than actually disturbing, but may be too intense for viewers with particular phobias or past associations.
Tris is suddenly attacked by men who attempt to force her off a ledge to her death, screaming and struggling.
Guy/girl and girl/girl training fights are intense and somewhat bloody. Tris is mercilessly punched and kicked in the ribs and head.
A knife is thrown into someone’s hand.
Tris shoots and wounds bad guys to get life or death information.
Spoiler Warning - Tris, about to shoot a brainwashed friend, turns the gun on herself in the hope that the unanticipated moral crisis will shake him back to reality.
Some Ethical Confusion
In the Dauntless faction (Tris’ choice), which is “tasked with the defense of this city”, there is officially no distinction between how men and women are treated or expected to behave, although individual positively-portrayed men do honor the women differently, and seek to protect them. A man says that a bloody training fight involving a woman “wasn’t something I wanted to watch.” The official reason for the vicious training is to enable them to save people’s lives later on.
A fellow trainee attempts to kill Tris, but later asks for forgiveness. It is unclear in the moment if he is sincere. Tris responds, “If you come close to me again, I will kill you. Stay away from me!”
The Dauntless constantly take life-or-death risks, apparently for fun. Tris is initially drawn to the Dauntless faction because of this. Some of these risky situations are later shown to be security measures to keep other factions from being able to access the headquarters.
Positively-portrayed characters engage in or allow questionable behavior in order to preserve their own and others’ lives. For example, a character agrees to shoot an innocent person in a simulation (he is able to clearly mentally separate the simulation from real life) because refusal would lead to his death.
The faction-choosing ceremony requires the individual to cut his own hand with a knife and drip blood into a bowl representing his faction.
Spoiler Warning - The young man Tris would not verbally forgive commits suicide. Tris is shocked, and has to be persuaded that it was not her fault.
The entire faction system is built on faulty assumptions, but these are clearly portrayed as faulty. Some physical, mental and historical aspects of the faction system and divergents’ unique abilities are not fully explained, but are explainable.
One positively-portrayed faction avoids looking in the mirror for long, because they “reject vanity”. This is viewed as a personal decision.
Admonitions to “trust yourself” and “think of yourself” are used, but not in a selfish or humanist way.
The villainess claims that “human nature” is the enemy. Biblically, fallen human nature is corrupt, but the villainess is referring to “thoughts, emotions, history” and “independent will”, not to the corruption of them.
Many of the Dauntless have tattoos and multiple piercings. Tris and her friends get tattoos, as well, through a painless, no-needle method.
People are given hallucinogenic drugs to initiate simulations. The simulations allow others to see inside the trainee’s mind.
A couple of injections are seen.
The word “luck” is used casually a few times.