Film Review | The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
“Moves, and counter moves”.
That line of dialogue, softly spoken by Donald Sutherland’s increasingly despotic President Snow, pretty much sums up The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. With no actual Hunger Games to speak of for the first time in the series, the highly anticipated sequel is light on action, trading spectacle for intimacy and bulging with fantastic performances and power plays of an altogether different sort than we’re used to as the long-foreshadowed revolution begins.
Picking up an unspecified amount of time after the events of Catching Fire, Mockingjay: Part 1 finds Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) unwillingly thrust into her role as the face of the resistance by District 13 leaders Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and President Coin (Julianne Moore). Meanwhile, President Snow (Sutherland) has his own cards to play, using Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as a pawn in the escalating war.
Jennifer Lawrence raises the bar for female heroines once again in her third appearance as Katniss Everdeen. There are many lines of dialogue which would likely sound ‘cheesy’ when coming from another actress’ mouth, but Lawrence pulls it off effortlessly, laying bare all the complex feelings of her character in the process. She’s ably supported by a strong cast that includes Moore, Hutcherson, and Hoffman in his last film role, whilst franchise newcomer Natalie Dormer also manages to leave an impression.
It’s immediately clear that we’re in the very dark home stretch, and Mockingjay: Part 1 is very grim throughout. Thankfully, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson offer welcome, if fleeting moments of levity as Effie Trinket and Haymitch respectively. On the technical side of things, the film is equally as impressive; Francis Lawrence’s direction is superb in the intimate moments, and James Newton Howard’s score is typically strong.
Without getting into the spoilerific details, we can’t help but feel Mockingjay: Part 1 should have ended just a little earlier than it actually does. In addition, though Gale’s character gets some much needed attention this time round, Liam Hemsworth’s unremarkable portrayal still leaves much to be desired.
Only when we lay eyes on the second instalment will we be able to tell if the two-part finale is warranted, but Mockingjay: Part 1 is another hugely satisfying instalment in the excellent franchise, leaving us eager to see how it all ends in 2015.