Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

directed by Francis Lawrence


"If we burn, you burn with us!"

Katniss Everdeen's defiant cry to President Snow and the forces of the Capitol is only one of several tingly moments in Mockingjay Part 1. The third film of the Hunger Games series sees rebellion spreading across the districts, and President Snow's attempts to repress it becoming increasingly vicious. And Snow wasn't known for his kindness in the first place.

The film begins in District 13, the hidden district that was supposed to have been bombed into oblivion. President Coin (Julianne Moore) is the leader of the rebellion. Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) wants Katniss to become the figurehead of the revolution, but Coin has her doubts. Meanwhile Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is held hostage by President Snow, and keeps appearing on Capitol propaganda. It seems like he's either being increasingly brainwashed by the regime, or he's saying things that undermine the rebellion in order to protect himself or someone else. He isn't the only hostage, there are also other tributes who didn't escape the Capitol.

So the stage is set for an epic struggle, both between the rebels and the Capitol, and between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and herself as she figures out just what and who she is prepared to sacrifice for the greater good. In District 13 they realise they have to have the support of all of the other districts in order to succeed, and it's an all-or-nothing struggle. So there's lots of scope for stirring moments, and I felt the film delivered on that front in buckets. This is a dark movie, even when compared with the sick concept of the televised Hunger Games battles and Snow's relentless political machinations. In terms of the look, it's a lot grittier as all of the glamour of the Capitol is stripped away and people are more focused on trying to survive.

However, this film isn't relentlessly bleak. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) provide some welcome light relief as they attempt to get to grips with their reduced circumstances. I'm not saying this is a funny film, but their characters give it a personality and warmth that bring into relief exactly what Katniss is fighting for: her friends and family. There are also bigger roles for her sister, mother, and even the cat Buttercup.

One thing that I thought there might have been more of was screen time for the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). It's there, and it's quite poignant, but it's also fairly subtle and underplayed. It's definitely not a romantic story.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is the most gut-wrenching, grimdark film of the series so far. That suits the hard-hitting subject matter. It's a movie that works on an emotional level. The plot is as stripped-down and bare as the District 13 bunker, without a minute wasted. With that in mind it's not very intellectually demanding, but prepare to end the film reaching for your beret.

7th December 2014

Film Details

Year: 2014

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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5 star rating

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More about Francis Lawrence

Source: cinema