The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (12A/PG-13, 123 mins)
Director: Francis Lawrence
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy gets a now standard two-movie split, and if you haven’t seen the films that have preceded it, you haven’t got a chance with this first part.
It begins immediately after the events of the second film, Catching Fire, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) taken from the Games arena and waking up to find herself in the supposedly destroyed District 13.
The rebels are fronted by Philip Seymour Hoffman and newcomer to the series Julianne Moore as President Coin. Katniss’s actions in the arena have been the spur for uprising in the Districts, and they want her to be the face of their campaign, to film propaganda videos that let the people see there’s hope.
She’s more interested in the fate of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who is being held in the Capital, and it’s this tension that drives the drama rather than a reliance on set pieces. Because, goodness knows, it sure ain’t an action film, which is far from a bad thing.
As the third part in a four-part trilogy, there were always likely to be some pacing issues, and occasionally events that could take up one minute of screen time can be stretched into three or four. Some characters are afforded more screen time than might otherwise be the case or we’re introduced to people who don’t feel entirely relevant.
It’s a bit like trying to make a full meal from a limited set of ingredients, but it’s compensated for by a dramatic escalation of the threat level. Snow is going to town to destroy every threat posed by the Districts, stopping at nothing short of genocide, and the dangers are very real indeed.
Lawrence holds it all together as ever, with another committed and impassioned performance that reveals the steel of Katniss and demonstrates that she’s the best young actress on the planet. By the time this series closes out next November, we’ll hopefully be left with a sci-fi saga to be treasured for years to come.