“The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Part 1” (PG-13) 1 1/2 stars (out of four)
A promising big screen adaptation of the “Divergent” book trilogy hits the wall full-force with “The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1,” a dull and predictable first act in the four movie saga. A familiar-feeling tale akin to “The Hunger Games,” “Allegiant” appears to be heading to an even worse big-screen fate than its literary predecessor “Mockingjay.”
Shailene Woodley is back as Tris in the post-apocalyptic city of Chicago, where the city’s residents are no longer divided into five factions based on different virtues: Abnegation (those who are selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (fearless) and Erudite (intelligent). The system was an devised to prevent anyone willfully acting out on their own and threatening the other residents of the city.
However, when an uprising against the system (detailed in the second film) yields unpredictable results, Tris and her Divergent companion, Four (Theo James), along with a small group escaped the towering walls of the city to discover high-tech facility housed at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, where they discover they’ve been part of an experiment – and it’s not over yet.
While the first “Divergent” posed an interesting premise and the sequel, “Insurgent,” maintained that promise, “Allegiant – Part 1” has just turned plain silly. Once gritty and engaging, the series makes a jarring shift into a sleek, plastic sci-fi film with the new film, where even the actors seem bored. The acting is terrible and even stalwarts like Jeff Daniels, the architect of the experiment, seems to be phoning in his performance. The filmmakers and actors for “Part 2” have some serious work cut out for them if they’re to salvage the series.
“Eye in the Sky” (R) 3 1/2 stars (out of 4)
An intense debate over the costs of a deadly but necessary military action plays out in the deeply compelling “Eye in the Sky,” an expertly-directed war thriller by Oscar-winning filmmaker Gavin Hood. Helen Mirren is at her best as Katherine Powell, a no-nonsense British military colonel who after six years ferrets out a group of high-level Al Shabaab terrorists holed up in Kenya. But when the mission turns from capture to kill as it’s discovered two of the members are being prepared for a suicide bombing, a crisis of conscience arises as an innocent 9-year-old girl wanders into the kill zone to likely become a victim of collateral damage.
Aaron Paul also stars as an American drone pilot wrestling with dread as he prepares to pull the trigger on the mission; and Alan Rickman appears in his final big-screen role as decisive British general trying to get the go-ahead on the mission from a group of wishy-washy politicos.