Movie Reviews

'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1': Expect dark turns

By Deborah WeeMovies - 19 November 2014 4:00 AM

'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1': Expect dark turns

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Our Rating

4/5 Stars

We live in a strange world where four-part trilogies are becoming a common thing.

We might grumble that one novel is being unnecessarily stretched into two films to increase box-office revenues, but ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1’ is one of those rare occurrences where one-half feels strangely satisfying on its own, save for its obligatory cliffhanger ending.

Director Francis Lawrence (no relation to leading actress Jennifer) gives us two hours of consistent intensity, and he owes this in large part to the powerful performance by the immensely talented cast, especially the Girl on Fire (on- and offscreen).

“No one else can do this but her,” says character Plutarch Heavensbee about Katniss Everdeen, but he could very well be talking about Jennifer Lawrence. Without her, it would be difficult to imagine how it would be possible to pull off a dark and emotional film such as ‘Mockingjay’.

PSYCHOLOGICAL GAMES

The movie picks up right where ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ left off. After destroying the arena and cutting the third Quarter Quell short, Katniss (Lawrence) is rescued by the rebel District 13 and taken to their underground community, much like a mini-Zion (of ‘The Matrix’).

Because of her televised act of defiance, Katniss unwittingly inspires rebellion across the Districts. Plutarch (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and District 13’s President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) rope Katniss in to become the Mockingjay symbol to unite the rebels against the Capitol.

Staying true to the tone of the series, ‘Mockingjay’ thrives mainly on effectively captured emotions that spill from trauma and desperation, and the psychological games between District 13 and the Capitol, even though there is a decent portion of action scenes as well.

The underlying theme continues to be media and politics, which consistently forces Katniss out of her comfort zone and into a celebrity figure, whether for the Capitol or for District 13.

But where ‘Mockingjay’ differs from the previous movies is that it is a lot darker and more disturbing. Smartly managing to stay outside the restricted ratings, the filmmakers do not hold back in showing the horrors of dictatorship.

THE EMOTIONAL ANCHOR

The bulk of the movie’s emotional weight is channelled through the once-in-a-generation talent of Jennifer Lawrence. The role is more emotionally demanding than ever, with Katniss shown being somewhat happy for a handful of seconds in the entire movie, but Lawrence nails it anyway.

She pulls off a rousing speech on a propaganda video, and also sings a haunting tune that becomes the rebellion’s war song. In one of the film’s lighter moments, Lawrence further exemplifies her talent by being able to act as a person who cannot act.

Many of the supporting cast are superb as well. Julianne Moore is inspiring as the calm and collected President Coin. And the late Hoffman, in his second-last film appearance, is still a commanding presence, while newcomer Natalie Dormer (of ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Tudors’ fame) holds her own as a cool video director with an even cooler hairstyle.

Of particular note is Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, who delivers such a convincing performance that he throws you off on his true intentions, and you are not sure if you should feel sorry for or frightened of the guy.

Of course, ‘Mockingjay’ ends with a cliffhanger that will take the audience into the final film next year. While it intentionally leaves more to be desired, the ending will still give you chills.

It might not be the most eventful of ‘Hunger Games’ movies, but ‘Mockingjay’ is a solid penultimate film that only serves to remind its fans of just how much they are going to miss the franchise when it concludes next year.

'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1' opens in cinemas 20 November 2014

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

    (2014)
  • Rated
    PG13 /
    Genre
    Action, Adventure, Drama
  • Language
    Eng
  • (11 Reviews)