Greeting on another Saturday morning! Find myself consistently glad when it’s the weekend, as that always means free time (usually!) to see more films to add to the list for viewing. So, with that said, I will readily admit I was a tad delayed in getting this particular review posted, and for that, apologies. No more fuss…I give you “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”.
SEE THE TRAILER HERE
Directed by Francis Lawrence, who brought “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” to life for us last season, the story takes place in the devastating aftermath of the Quarter Quell, and finds our heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) still recovering from the Games in the underground sanctuary of District 13. Upon waking, Katniss is immediately brought before the President of District 13 Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), head Gamesman now ally Plutarch Heavensbee (the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and fellow Quell survivor Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) who have their plans to rise up against the Capitol with use of Katniss as their symbol for the Rebellion. Initially hesitant and actually at raging odds with them, the group arranges a trip to the surface to show Katniss first-hand the results of the chaos and destruction which ensued at District 12 when the Capitol retaliated against the uprising. After returning to her home to retrieve certain items, and overwhelmed by what she has seen, Katniss first locates her mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister Prim (Willow Shields) and then agrees to become the symbol for the uprising. Soon included in Katniss’ immediate circle are friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), former Capitol resident/promoter now friend Effie (Elizabeth Banks) whose dealing with the change in social status is quite amusing, and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). As Katniss’ presence and intention is made known among the other Districts, however, the Capitol and its maniacal leader President Snow (Donald Sutherland) demonstrate in the harshest way that Snow is NOT intending to allow Katniss to perpetuate the Rebellion. And adding to this resolve is the unexpected appearance of a friend thought dead, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who has been taken by the Capitol for their OWN propaganda campaign via live interview broadcasts by Capitol TV host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), and which in itself begins to draw away Katniss’ focus on what she needs to do. As President Coin fans the fire of uprising using the propaganda videos they create to spread the message to the Capitol thanks to Beetee’s hacking expertise, others join the fight including former Game player Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), and new allies Boggs (Mahershala Ali) the District’s head of Security, as well as propaganda leaders Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Messalla (Evan Ross), and Pollux (Elden Henson). But as their ongoing attempts to create unrest and storm the Capitol to rescue loved ones unfolds, Snow makes one final move that threatens to compromise everything Katniss and President Coin have been striving to accomplish with the Rebellion. So in the midst of success, the loss and emotional toll taken on everyone involved begins to show, and the stage is set for the final push to win freedom on Pan Em. Any more detail would be spoilers, so….’nuff said!
Given that I was NOT actually a complete fan of the FIRST film in this series, it has been therefore a pleasant SURPRISE that both “Catching Fire” and now this offering have been quite excellent. As the story builds to its ultimate conclusion, the emotional investment and engagement with the primary characters has grown exponentially for me. From the start, Lawrence’s ability to just EMOTE so well what Katniss is feeling at any given moment is on full display, and this alone captures my attention. Lawrence is able to deliver Katniss to us with such earnest realism and genuineness, that you are feeling EVERYTHING she is as it unfolds. Quick pacing, great action sequences, but also some potent character drama is brought to the viewer throughout, and I never once felt like it was dragging or that certain points were given too much or too little time or explanation. I also love the fact that for as many characters as are a part of this tale, we honestly get to know the “older” ones MORE and the NEW ones enough to have them be a believable part of Katniss’ circle and intentions. Moore is perfect as Coin, playing a ruling patriarch with a powerful stance that puts a different face to the Rebellion. Hoffman brings that ever-present, quiet, yet determined resolve to Plutarch and it is a painful reminder of a talent gone FAR too soon. Banks and Harrelson yet again shine as Effie and Haymitch, bringing some needed humor into the darker-toned story. Of course our other supporting players like Wright, Hemsworth, Shields, and Claflin all successfully provide presence to their characters and again, I did feel engaged by them as well. And President Snow is…wow…I mean, THIS guy needs to GO if you catch my meaning, and that is a testament to the superb acting of vet Sutherland who just makes Snow SO vile. An unexpected (at least to those like me who’ve never read beyond Book 1) twist with Peeta was a whopper, and I will say Hutcherson pulled off his best performance of the series in this one. Visually the film is perfect in its portrayal of the stark reality the main characters are living in, and serves as a constant reminder of the Capitol’s determination to keep it’s outlying Districts under heavy foot and ruled by total fear. An appropriate soundtracks rounds it all out and we have a film that sets up quite effectively the final part out November 2015. I was ready to join the Rebellion after seeing this, if THAT tells you the kind of emotional tie I felt the movie brought. Fantastic, fast-paced, action/drama, with the perfect cast, this is one to see.
As always, this is all for YOUR consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!