In the futuristic world of "Divergent," the notion that you can do anything, be anyone and go anywhere does not apply.
At age 16, Chicagoans are forced to pick their lifelong path from one of five "factions" or groups: Abnegation, whose members are selfless; Amity, peaceful; Candor, honest; Erudite, intelligent; and Dauntless, brave.
Regret your choice and you’re out of luck; there are no mulligans. This isn’t like changing tracks or majors or colleges or enjoying the modern luxury of a gap year.
This is your life -- for life.
That is the backdrop for teenager Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), who lives with her parents (Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd), part of the Abnegation faction, meaning they dress in gray, drab clothing, wear plain hairstyles and adopt unassuming demeanors so they can focus on others.
When Beatrice undergoes a mandatory aptitude test to determine her faction, she shows equal leanings for Abnegation, Dauntless and Erudite, which makes her "Divergent" and extremely dangerous in some unspecified way.
She is warned not to tell anyone, including her family, and when it comes time to pick her faction, she chooses Dauntless to the surprise of everyone. Her brother (Ansel Elgort) opts for Erudite, and Beatrice sees how the other one-fifth live, finds she has to literally fight for a spot in Dauntless and is unnerved by Four (Theo James), the guarded, tough teacher of the initiates.
"Divergent" follows Beatrice -- now calling herself Tris -- as she discovers just how perilous her secret label is, experiences her deepest fears thanks to drug-induced hallucinations and uncovers a plan that endangers her and those she loves.
The carefully constructed society is about to be upended by the darker side of some of the factions in this movie naturally being compared to the "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" franchises.
It, too, flies a young adult flag. It is based on the first of three best-selling novels by Veronica Roth, and its ending is designed as a "Stay tuned" for the next installment, "Insurgent." To be followed by "Allegiant."
At roughly 143 minutes, it is almost exactly as long as "The Hunger Games" and, like that Jennifer Lawrence showcase, it benefits from a talented young actress at its heart.
Equally impressive is James as Four, a mysterious, magnetic figure who thaws and reveals himself as the story unfolds, while Elgort doesn’t get as much screen time as he will in "The Fault in Our Stars" with Woodley. Kate Winslet turns down the temperature and proves a chilly, diabolical villain this time around.
"Divergent," to its benefit, gives moviegoers something to chew on. What happens when teens, especially, are stereotyped and defined by a single characteristic? Does anyone really fit into such a narrow slot, or are we all divergent?
Can fears and human nature be controlled to such great extents? And is there room for yet another YA franchise, even one that is very faithful to the text, at the multiplex?
Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.
DIVERGENT (PG-13). Directed by Neil Burger; written by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, based on the book by Veronica Roth; music by Junkie XL; produced by Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher and Pouya Shahbazian. A Summit Entertainment release. At Beacon Cinema (Pittsfield), Berkshire Mall Cinema 10 (Lanesborough), Crandell Theatre (Chatham, N.Y.), North Adams Movieplex, and Triplex Cinema (Great Barrington). 2 hours 23 minutes.
Tris Shailene Woodley
Four Theo James
Natalie Ashley Judd
Eric Jai Courtney
Marcus Ray Stevenson
Christina Zok Kravitz
Peter Miles Teller
Andrew Tony Goldwyn
Caleb Ansel Elgort
Tori Maggie Q
Max Mekhi Phifer
Jeanine Kate Winslet