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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Divergent

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn and Ansel Elgort star in a scene from the movie "Divergent."
 If Hollywood has its way, teenagers won't have it easy in the post-apocalyptic future.

"The Hunger Games" started the ball rolling, with its vision of a dog-eat-dog world where young people are forced to kill each other to survive.

Now comes "Divergent" (Summit), which, despite its title, is not vastly different from "The Hunger Games." It, too, features a strong-willed heroine. Torn from her family, she is the chosen one who will redeem a totalitarian society. But first she must become a hardened warrior/killer -- and get a tattoo.

Director Neil Burger ("Limitless") is perhaps too faithful to the eponymous novel by Veronica Roth, juggling a dizzying amount of names, labels, rules and regulations to establish time and place. Underneath all the lavish exposition is a basic good vs. evil story, with a pinch of social commentary and a dash of puppy love.

The setting is Chicago, a century after "the war" which wiped everything out except, happily, the Windy City. To preserve the peace, the "Founders" divided Chicagoans into five factions, each representing a different virtue: Candor (honesty), Amity (peace), Erudite (knowledge), Dauntless (bravery), and Abnegation (selfless).

In this brave new world, Amity members work the farms, Erudites run the schools, Dauntless types man the police force -- you get the picture.

"The future belongs to those who know where they belong," proclaims Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), who oversees the structure. "The system removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will."

Or so she thinks. Enter shy wallflower Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley). She belongs to Abnegation, where her father, Andrew (Tony Goldwyn), is a government official. Members of this faction reject vanity, embrace goodness and serve others, including the disadvantaged and downtrodden who have been expelled from other groups.

It all sounds rather Christian, although "Divergent" never plays the religion card. Needless to say, Abnegation is looked down upon by the other, more lively tribes.

At age 16, every child must choose his or her fate: whether to stay at home, or join another bloc. Helping to make the decision is an aptitude test akin to a chemical brainwashing.

When Beatrice undergoes the procedure, the results are inconclusive. She is that rare freak of nature, a "Divergent," able to exist in any faction. Because of their independent nature, Divergents are a threat to the status quo and -- so Jeanine commands -- must be eliminated.

To protect her family from her secret, Beatrice decides to choose another grouping: Dauntless. She adopts the nickname "Tris" and struggles to fit in with a considerably hipper, angst-ridden crowd.

What ensues is a prolonged and increasingly vicious training and initiation ritual, led by a hunky instructor named Four (Theo James).

(Regrettably, chivalry has not survived the apocalypse, as boys have no qualms about beating girls to a pulp.)

Before long, Tris and Four are an item, with a lot more in common than their tattoos. Happily, their courtship is a chaste one, with Tris telling Four she prefers to "take it slow."

Besides, there are bigger fish to fry. Together they uncover a nefarious takeover plot by Jeanine that puts the survival of Abnegation -- and Tris' family -- in jeopardy.

As it barrels towards an explosive climax, "Divergent" pushes the boundaries of mayhem to the limit, placing the picture squarely outside the proper reach of younger teens.

The film contains intense violence, including scenes of torture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Michael Giedroyc: A life of physical pain and mental torment didn’t prevent Michael Giedroyc from achieving holiness. 
<p>Born near Vilnius, Lithuania, Michael suffered from physical and permanent handicaps from birth. He was a dwarf who had the use of only one foot. Because of his delicate physical condition, his formal education was frequently interrupted. But over time, Michael showed special skills at metalwork. Working with bronze and silver, he created sacred vessels, including chalices.</p><p>He traveled to Kraków, Poland, where he joined the Augustinians. He received permission to live the life of a hermit in a cell adjoining the monastery. There Michael spent his days in prayer, fasted and abstained from all meat and lived to an old age. Though he knew the meaning of suffering throughout his years, his rich spiritual life brought him consolation. Michael’s long life ended in 1485 in Kraków.</p><p>Five hundred years later, Pope John Paul II visited the city and spoke to the faculty of the Pontifical Academy of Theology. The 15th century in Kraków, the pope said, was “the century of saints.” Among those he cited was Blessed Michael Giedroyc.</p> American Catholic Blog The French novelist Leon Bloy once said that there is only one tragedy in life: not to be a saint. It may be that God permits some suffering as the only way to wake someone from a dream of self-sufficiency and illusory happiness.

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