Note: this review contains spoilers for both the book and the movie. Read at your own risk. It somewhat comes out as a synopsis with my thoughts on the different parts and why I liked/disliked them.
Throughout the film I could tell that they tried to keep most of the things the same as in the books. I haven't read the book in over a year, but I still remembered it well enough, and I felt that the important parts stuck in my mind, so I would have a good idea of what was supposed to be there and what was changed. Obviously there were some things changed for pacing reasons and for a better cinematic experience, but they all felt right and I wasn't disappointed at all.
So basically, the movie starts out showing us the beautiful city of Chicago, but it's definitely run down and abandoned looking. Then Beatrice begins talking, and we learn of all the different factions. I found the way they explained them interesting and helpful, because they showed each faction in their home area which gave you a better look at their personalities. We got to see their different clothing and understand what each faction did for the community as a whole. Another thing I loved, though it was subtle, was that as they introduced each faction, they showed their symbols in some way. I got a little thrill at this, and if you haven't seen the movie, look out for the symbols as you hear Beatrice explain them to us.
After the factions, Beatrice begins to talk more of herself, and we get to see her as a child briefly. I felt that this was a good way to get a feel of her character and how she doesn't quite fit in to Abnegation as she wishes she did.
Then, the movie basically jumps right in, and we see Beatrice take her test, and it's a little different from the book. I felt they did spend a little too much time with the mirror image thing that they had going on in the beginning of the simulation, but I did see why they had it in there. I just wish that part was cut a little shorter, but it really wasn't too long or too bad, just a personal preference. Then, though in the book she is to pick between cheese and a knife, in the movie she has some meat or a knife to choose from instead. I felt this change was fine, and it made plenty of sense since it was a way for her to fend off the dog. I liked how there was the second "Beatrice" and it told her that she needed to pick one quick or it would be too late. Obviously she doesn't pick, and the dog comes. I found it interesting how this whole scene played out, and was very happy with the results.
Tori, her test administrator, and Beatrice aren't happy with the results of her test though. She is Divergent, and she has to hide.
The next day is the choosing ceremony, and there are the five bowls placed on the stage with a knife to cut their hands with. They go in backwards alphabetical order, so we see a few people choose their factions first. Then, Beatrice's brother Caleb picks, and he picks Erudite. Everyone, including Beatrice, is shocked, and this is definitely shown through the applause. I found the simple touches like that to be useful to the overall story.
After Caleb is Beatrice's turn, and she has no idea what she's going to do yet. This is shown through the way she holds her hand over Abnegation's rocks, but right before she tips her hand to let the blood drop, she moves it to hit the coals and flames of Dauntless. Her parents both look unhappy, but her mother eluded to being okay with her making any choice she wanted before the ceremony.
The movie then really starts moving, as the Dauntless have plenty of action sequences that can be demonstrated through a cinematic standpoint. The jumping onto the trains was well demonstrated, and I loved how the different things like how they were shocked they had to jump over a gap between the train and high up buildings to get to where they needed to be.
The initiates then have to jump off the building down into a hole where they can't see where it leads to. It was great getting to see Beatrice jump before everyone else, especially since they had no idea what was to come. It showed true bravery, because no matter how scared someone is to do something, I believe it's always harder to go first.
This is where Beatrice first meets Four, and she finally changes her name to Tris. Though he didn't mention anything, knowing the book's background made me enjoy the way he told her she can change her name, because us readers know that is what he wanted and did himself.
After that, Four takes the new initiates and speaks to them about him being their instructor, and he definitely is not someone that the people there want to mess with. He seems very unsociable and untrustworthy of most people. He doesn't take well to the initiates and their conversations and jokes.
Then, they see their sleeping area, and there is no privacy at all. It showed the difference between Abnegation and Dauntless really well in a different way than their actions did. It showed how the Abnegation were very private and didn't want to be seen, as demonstrated while Tris was still in her old faction, while Dauntless don't care at all about privacy when it comes to their bodies. The boys and girls share both a room and a bathroom, and the toilets in the bathroom are not closed off for any privacy. It's all open, and the girl and boy initiates have to change while in the same room.
The training begins shortly after they're introduced to Dauntless, and, as expected, Tris does awfully. She's one of the lowest ranks, well below the red line indicating that they aren't going to make it through the initiation and they'll become factionless. She still has time to move herself up in the ranks, but without getting past that line, all is hopeless for her.
She's really weak, but she is definitely brave. She speaks up when others wouldn't dare to, and she doesn't have a problem speaking her mind to authority. Though she gets beaten up quite a few times, she also has dedication and an inner strength that pushes her well past her limits. To quote the movie, when normal people are faced with fear, they shut down. When Tris is faced with fear, she wakes up.
After she loses a fight with Peter though, it's supposedly all over for her. Eric told them that she was going to be kicked out. She doesn't care though, and after everyone leaves, she gets on the train to play the war game anyway. Eric seems to accept this, and she's in. She's picked to be on Four's team, and in the end led them to victory. I think that her intelligence and bravery in this situation is what helped bring her up in the ranks and above the red line.
Once the second part of initiation begins, Tris is able to pass everything with flying colors. Since she's Divergent, she is able to get past the simulation in ways the Dauntless can't. Four begins to take notice, and Tris is nervous because she knows not to tell anyone of her Divergence. Both Tris and Four begin to get closer though, and he saves her from an attack in the night. The chemistry between them is great, you can definitely feel that something is going to happen between them, but their relationship wasn't forced at all.
Tris eventually tells him of her Divergence, because she can tell he already knows. After this, he takes her and shows her his fear simulations and the way to get through them without showing that they're Divergent. We see his fears played out perfectly, and we learn the ways that he could get past them. We then finally learn both where he got the name Four from, and what his original name was. This to me didn't seem as big of a deal in the movie as in the book, but I think they made more of an emphasis on who Marcus Eaton was in the book than the movie. It was definitely still done very well, and it was interesting the way it was portrayed for the people who only saw the movie without reading the book.
Tris and Four at this point are very close to one another. They both have full trust of the other. I felt that their kissing scene wasn't overdone and fit well into the movie. There was plenty of character building for them both. It definitely wasn't an instant love, they grew to have the feelings for one another, which made me happy because that's more realistic.
Soon after, it's Tris's turn to go through her final simulation, and everyone is there watching. She knows she can't mess up, or she'll die. She also knows if she stays in there too long, she'll also die. This isn't comforting, but she is a strong willed person and will do what she knows she has to do.
She goes into her fears and she is able to get through them the way a Dauntless would. Though there's one scene that may be a little controversial, I think it worked out well. Though it is an attempted rape, it doesn't actually happen, and it shows how Tris fears too much physical contact. This is because they didn't show the limitations of Abnegation when it comes to touching, and it's also the easiest way to show a viewer her fear of it, even if it's not like that in the book. One thing I wished they emphasized more on was that she only had six fear simulations. Though they talk about how quick she was through her test, this is known to be because she's Divergent. Her divergence could be a factor to her having the less than average amount of fears, but it also shows a strength in her character rather than her immunity to a simulator's function.
After this is when things begin to really pick up. They are given a "tracker" and then sent to bed. This tracker wasn't a tracker though, it was a simulation to make the Dauntless do whatever the simulation's controller wanted. The only one's immune were the divergent. This is shown both through Tris, and through another person who they made not as intelligent as her. He questions those around him as to what they are doing, and those who are leaders and not given the simulator shot him first chance.
The army of Dauntless end up going to Abnegation, and all hell breaks loose. There's shooting everywhere and people being dragged out of their homes. Tris and Four both have to act like they're under the simulator, but they really aren't and they cannot find Tris's parents. They've already left their home.
Eric then approaches Four who acts like a mindless drone for his own safety, but things go too far, and Tris and Four jump into action. Tris gets shot, and they both get taken to Jeanine who is running the whole operation. Tris is found useless because of her injury, but Four is taken.
Tris is then taken to be executed, which is shown differently than in the book. In the book she is placed in a real life version of her fear of drowning. She's in the tank about to die. In the movie, she's just kneeling on the ground with her hands behind her head and guns pointed at her head. As in both situations though, her mother saves her and takes her almost to where they're hiding out. She gets shot, and this is honestly a really sad moment. Shailene really outdid herself with her acting at this point, and I loved the emotion that came across Tris's face. I really felt for her and wanted to hug my mom in that moment.
Tris goes and finds the rest of the people, including her dad and brother. They all go to rescue Four, and Marcus Eaton comes along as well. When they get there, Peter attacks, though he isn't under the simulation as he wasn't given any. He is overpowered by Tris though, and I honestly loved this scene. I think it really shows how Tris has grown both mentally and physically, and how she is truly a dauntless now. She was beat up by him before and knocked out, but here she gets the upper hand, which shows how much she's learned. He takes her to where Four is, and while this part is different from the book, I felt it went well enough. I do wish they explained more about how they found a serum that worked through the Divergent minds, though I might have just missed it if it was only subtly said.
Four attacks Tris, and it's honestly an interesting fight to watch. We see more of Tris's improvement in her skills, and we also see the affects of the serum on Four, as he is completely at the will of those controlling him.
I loved the way that they showed the gun to the head part, because it shows that Tris is willing to die for him. She really cares for him, but he really cares for her too, and I loved even more how this is shown, because he is able to break through the serum. After this, they work toward getting the simulation off, and I love the way Jeanine gets a little of what she deserved from Tris. After the simulation is off and destroyed, they all run, and Four is confronted with his dad again. I really enjoyed the portrayal of this, because Theo was able to show Four's emotions rather well through facial expressions. I also loved the way he wasn't going to help him on the train, but ended up doing so anyway. I felt that the interactions here were perfect and spot on, and I honestly cannot wait to see more of their interactions in the next movie.
The rest of the film is a wrap up of everything, but there's definitely more to come with Insurgent and Allegiant. I hope that Insurgent the movie is better than Insurgent the book, because while I did love the book, it was a slow read for me and I wasn't quite as interested as I had hoped. Still, it's very exciting and I think that the series is in good hands with actors like Theo and Shailene. I loved the casting and acting in this movie. I doubted some of the characters' actors in the beginning, but they honestly worked out perfectly in the film. Along with that, there was amazing costumes that fit well for every faction and their differences were shown. Finally, the director and producers did an amazing job putting the film together, and I honestly am battling myself over seeing it again before it's out on DVD, which I almost never do. Also want to add props to the writers, as they kept the story very close to the book while appealing to those who are being exposed to Divergent for the first time through film.