Tuesday 18 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 review

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.

We’ve had glimpses of the bigger picture before, but now that what was essentially training in the Games is out of the way, we can get down to the real business. And that aim is full-on revolution, the overthrow of the corrupt and authoritarian government of the Capital, led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

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.

This is serious, sturdy stuff, looking at fascism and totalitarianism and evoking World War II with its air-raids and underground shelters and wars of information. It’s also reminiscent of the third Matrix film or Return of the Jedi with its hidden rebel base antics, and the groundwork is worth it for a number of powerful, stirring moments.

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.

1 comment:

  1. I like your phrase "full-on revolution", and I agree: "This is serious, sturdy stuff, looking at fascism and totalitarianism." More than war propaganda, it's a film about a just cause for civil war.

    I wrote a short essay on Mockingjay Part 1 called "When War is Justified." If you would like to read it, here is the link: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/hunger-games-mockingjay-part1/