REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Surely by now everyone knows the story of the successful franchise The Hunger Games. If somehow you’ve managed to miss it then Jennifer Lawrence plays angsty teenager Katniss Everdeen, a female heroine battling her way through the annual games in order to save her sister Prim.

The basic premise of the film series, based on a trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, is of a dystopian society, twelve districts all controlled by the Capitol. Due to a previous revolution each year one male and one female adolescent is chosen from each district to partake in a fight to the death.

Over the past two films Katniss has faced the arena twice and in Mockingjay – Part 1 we find her becoming the face of the new rebellion. Poor Katniss has had a tough time of it, watching friends die and her potential beau Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) being kidnapped by the Capitol at the end of Catching Fire.

The penultimate instalment takes off exactly where we left it and is a great link film to the finale, which we must annoyingly wait until next November for. Some critics have written off this film stating that it’s purely preparing us for the ending, but Mockingjay – Part 1 is so much more than that.

The film is incredibly emotional, poignant and moving throughout, a beautiful portrayal of love, loss and the implications of our actions on the rest of humanity. It’s actually a pretty deep and thought provoking film. And it’s incredibly refreshing for a teenage audience to be so captivated with this genre as opposed to the romantic chastity nonsense that was Twilight. Two particular scenes in the forest and at a dam really stand out way above the others for creating a real hope within the people and displaying the atrocities that the Capitol inflict on innocent civilians. And when Katniss visits a hospital in District 8 words cannot describe their pain and suffering.

Lawrence is, as always, fantastic as Katniss though at times it does feel a little like she has outgrown the role. This doesn’t detract from her overall performance though as she simultaneously cries and fights her way through the movie. Katniss does depression and angst like no other, rightly so after all she has experienced in such a short space of time, and Lawrence is more than capable of delivering.

For all the worth of the film there just isn’t enough screen-time for the boys. What makes the story more relatable are the interesting relationships that Katniss has with her friends and family. Peeta is shown in about four different scenes of the film (a travesty but necessary for the plot) whilst we have to put up with Gale, a shining example of the self-sacrificing hero, who is in fact actually quite irritating. Sorry for those of you who are firmly team Gale. Woody Harrelson shines when he is on screen but it seems a bit of a rarity. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is fabulous but we just don’t see enough of him. Whether this is due to his sad untimely death hasn’t been stated but for his last ever on screen performance we really need more.

Despite the horror and tragedy of the plot moments of comedy are eked out to relieve the audience. Buttercup the ginger cat comes up trumps for making us sigh in exasperation, one particular scene involving the animal and a torch reminiscent of the Puss in Boots trailer used in cinemas recently to explain their available audio and subtitle facilities. All a bit odd really.

Effie (Elizabeth Banks) adds the much needed comedy that the cat doesn’t always, a friend to Katniss as she struggles with this brutal next phase of her life. The women really make this film, the introduction of President Coin (Julianne Moore) a little difficult to deal with; she has the makings of a dictator and is incredibly controlling. A welcome new character comes in the form of Cressida (Natalie Dormer), a director helping Katniss with her propaganda videos, these shorts making up most of the film as Katniss proves she is not much of an actress.

The film does not necessarily feel the same as it’s two predecessors but it is a strong stand alone movie that focuses on the beginnings of the rebellion, the climactic ending both shocking and explosive. If you haven’t read the books then I really don’t think you’ll see it coming. Everything about this franchise is strong; the acting, screenplay, direction, music and effects all combine to make a great piece.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 does have it’s flaws but it provides an excellent beginning to the final part of Katniss’ story and you’ll be wishing the next instalment was available as soon as the credits roll to the dulcet tones of Lorde. Fully recommended to everyone. A definite triumph.