Movie Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’
directed by Francis Lawrence
and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson
From the opening scene of the rubble previously known as District 12, to the characteristically cliff-hanger end only two hours later, “Mockingjay—Part 1” grips its audience in intrigued suspense for its entire duration, relenting not for a bathroom run or even a two-second glance at a watch.
Though this may be the first “Hunger Games” film to not feature kids killing kids for sport, through its haunting scenes of death and destruction and thoroughly adult dystopian theme of a government set out to keep its people subservient, this installment is by far the darkest one yet. The constant threat of the Capitol as well as the absence of Peeta and the other tributes weighs on the audience’s minds from beginning to end, preventing even the few moments of levity from really taking the viewer out of a constant state of worry and anxiety. While sad, “Mockingjay” is not a downer. Its clear message of hope and inspiration to defeat evil is transmitted loud and clear.
As is now expected in the series, “Mockingjay”’s clear forte lies in its marvelous actors. The late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman is stoic, reserved, but oftentimes ironically hilarious, putting a perfect twist on his straight-laced rebel leader Plutarch Heavensbee. Julianne Moore is the president of the rebel district who, although dead-set on dethroning the evil President Snow, hints at being a little power-hungry herself. The wide cast of new actors who play fellow soldiers know their place on the sideline—their bit parts aren’t overdone and they support the lead roles well. And Josh Hutcherson, while mostly seen in Capitol interviews, plays the part of a broken prisoner of war so well that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the next great American War biopic.
Which only leaves one person, really, and it’s a big one. Strangely, Jennifer Lawrence’s acting in “Mockingjay—Part 1” put me on a bit of a roller coaster. At times, such as after The Capitol bombed a rebel war hospital, she was so inspiring that I got chills as if I was fighting alongside her. When she sang by the river in District 12, her emotion made her voice hauntingly beautiful, the sound of someone downtrodden but not yet defeated. But at other times, her face or voice shook for just a few too many seconds too long, treading the fragile line between amazing acting and just plain over-acting, taking viewers out of the moment and sometimes even sending them into fits of giggles.
“Mockingjay” accomplished everything it should have—by successfully building up suspense and adding action to a plot that had been classified in book form as dragging and boring, it functions well as a kind of story-building lead up to what will surely be a final film of non-stop action and drama. It perfectly leaves off at a thrilling cliffhanger that will surely haunt the minds of fans who have not read the book. As someone who enjoyed the books right when they came out, it has enough context in the beginning to prevent immense confusion but could probably benefit from a bit more information to clear up the intricate but murky ending of the previous film. This movie isn’t just fan service for those who want to see the books brought to life. Ever since the first “Hunger Games,” the series has functioned just as well on its own as it has as an addition to the book series. My hopes are high for the final film to continue this tradition and wrap up in the story in a thoroughly thrilling, terrifying way.