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Soundtrack review: The divergent series : Insurgent (Joseph Trapanese – 2015)

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Soundtrack review: The divergent series : Insurgent (Joseph Trapanese – 2015)


„The divergent series: Insurgent” is the second installment in the movie series based on the trilogy of young adult novels set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian Chicago. The main characters continue to run from their sinister foes. Junkie XL created a special sound for this franchise in the first movie but he couldn’t return for this second part. But when I learned who was going to score the movie my heart skipped a beat because Joseph Trapanese was involved in two of my favorite scores ever, “Oblivion” and “Tron: Legacy”. I couldn’t wait to hear this one. I am ready to be blown away, no pressure, Joseph Trapanese, okay?

The second movie picks up a couple of days after the first one ended and the music reflects that. The opening cue “We found it” sounds like a natural musical continuation of “Everywhere and nowhere”, the ending of “Divergent”. “Amity” is a step in the good direction. It brings me the ambient music I like and helps ease me into a hypnotic state where I can’t control my thoughts. “Dauntless arrive” wakes me up with a cue that reminds me of the action parts from “Oblivion”. It has that pace and determination that announce a robot attack. It still feels like the score is just warming up. It finds the right gear in “Escaping Amity”, a relentless full throttle cue that throws the listener right in the middle of the action.

It is difficult for me to separate this score from the expectations I had and from the sound of Oblivion which I know and feel as if it were my own. I react the most when I hear shades of it or a cue that represents a variation of that same root. Naturally “Candor” is right up my alley and I instantly connect with it. Same with “Truth serum”, they work for me as standalone, separate cues.

The more I listen to ”Insurgent” the more I am sucked into this hopeless and emotionless world. Even if Joseph Trapanese is the second composer to be involved, the sound of the “Divergent” franchise is cohesive and easy to identify. I haven’t read the books or seen the movie but I am getting to know the landscapes, characters and dystopian conditions of the story through the music. I feel the cold, I feel the grey, I feel the short moments of hope. Every note or sound from Joseph Trapanese’s score has a metallic shade attached to it and all of them put together form an eternal echo. Nothing is crystal clear in the sound as if there was always something to hide.

If in the first score “Dauntless” didn’t impress me much I feel its full might in its theme from “Insurgent”. What a cue! From the strange start through the insane buildup in the middle, towards an almost unbearable wall of sound to the quiet, atmospheric end this piece is a riot. A rollercoaster of emotions, a cue that might leave your heart pumping hard for a long time after it’s over.

The music of ”Insurgent” tells the tale of a world I wouldn’t want to be part of. It shows me that world and, naturally, it’s not a perfect score. There are moments I am very attached to and others I don’t understand. Most of the cues have this duality. I listen to “Final sim” and I’m not very fond of the beginning but then the middle section brings what sounds like a violin trying to survive and I love that part. Then it turns atmospheric and the landscape changes again. On the other hand “You’re real” starts with the gorgeous ambient section and then turns normal.

“Insurgent” is thick and layered and interesting. Its sound is quite unique and even if it was 80 minutes long I could have listened to more. The unevenness of some cues makes me think that it would have worked with a sketchbook type treatment (all the themes and variations of the score in a 40-50 minute continuous piece). My expectations of a new “Oblivion” weren’t met but it wasn’t fair anyway to have them. “Insurgent” works well on its own and I will return to it in the future.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 32 / 79

Album excellence: 41%



Escaping Amity



Raiding Candor

You’re Worth It


The Message




Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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