The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)
Francis Lawrence directs the first installment in the conclusion of the Hunger Games trilogy. The movie picks up shortly after the ending of its predecessor, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as Katniss Everdeen of District 12. Unbeknownst to Katniss she has been appointed as the primary leader of a district-wide rebellion. In addition, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) was left behind in the escape from the 75th Hunger Games. Like the second movie, Katniss continues to suffer from post-traumatic episodes.
The biggest reveal at the conclusion of Catching Fire was that there are people living in District 13. In fact, there is an entire underground community that has managed to survive holed up in military bunkers, away from the clutches of the Capitol. President Coin (Julianne Moore) is the leader of District 13. It is she and Plutarch Heavensbee (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) that thrust the position of rebellion leader on a girl who really isn’t given a moment to herself. As seen in the first scene of the movie, Katniss is denied time alone to process the recent, traumatic events in her life. Her deprivation in seeking peace and solace only emotes and exemplifies the seriousness of the situation. In this world, there is no time to sit and weep. A moment of respite can lead to the end of the cause and the continued enslavement of many. The reality of the situation is daunting and unfairly burdened to the “girl on fire.”
Mockingjay is really a movie of human emotion. A movie that expresses the reality of a dystopian and post-apocalyptic society where the riches of a few and the atrocities and oppression of most are so unfairly exacerbated it makes some of the scars on American history look meek in comparison (but no less despicable). Lawrence explores the interpersonal relationships Katniss shares with her immediate family (including Gale played by Liam Hemsworth) and her adopted family in District 13.
While certainly not the most action-packed movie of the series it is a movie that completes its goal. It essentially sets up for one heck of an ending and leaves the viewer wanting more. There isn’t much more that I think Lawrence could have changed in adapting the novel to screen and thus because of this I think this is the best movie of the series. In addition, I think moviegoers who have read the books will like the movie better. In the same vein of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 this film is a good penultimate entry to the exciting conclusion to the trilogy.
Once again, Elizabeth Banks steals every scene she is in and left me yearning for some more of the eccentric Effie. Jennifer Lawrence consumes the role and convinces the audience that no other actress could have played the role of Katniss Everdeen. Donald Sutherland continues to exude the icy embodiment of President Snow (no pun intended).
I do want to emphasize that I do not think this is an appropriate film for children. While not gory or grotesque, there are some disturbing images and material that I think is indicative of the fact that this isn’t a children’s series. The tone of the novel is even darker than the previous two. Overall, I think this movie was pretty great. I was pleasantly surprised. The ending of the film was spot on and perfect.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material)
Running Time: 123 minutes
My Grade: A-
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