Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Natalie Dormer, Mahershala Ali with Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland
Plot: As District 13 coaxes rebellion out of the other districts, President Coin (Moore) needs to be persuade Katniss (Lawrence) into making propaganda videos for them.
People are not going to like this movie. It suffers from all the predictable reasons. It is Part One of Two and the moment that ‘To Be Continued…’ screen flashes up, you will roll your eyes and curse the marketing ploy to stretch out this cash cow for a little while longer. When the end credits kicked in, everyone in the cinema got up and stormed out, talking about how they had just wasted money for their cinema ticket. That is unfair, because as it happens Mockingjay Part One is a truly fantastic piece of cinema.
People always forget what the Hunger Games is actually about. Because it is such a major movie event at the moment, we always enter the frame of mind, where we expect an action blockbuster. Sure, the first two films were able to deliver that, but the action always seemed like a nice side-effect to the story the writers wanted to tell. Mockingjay is more concerned about exploring the underground guerrilla warfare the rebellion is forced to play out. This movie is mainly about exploring the devastation the Capitol has caused and building up the rebellion leader in Katniss’s character, shown through the Rebellion’s propaganda filming. Hunger Games never does the expected thing and there is some brutally shocking moments, when rebels are willing to so selflessly put their lives on the line, mainly because Julianne Moore’s Coin (who shares one too many similarities to President Snow for the viewer’s liking), tweaked Katniss’s message slightly to make an artificial truth stir up more sacrifices among her troops. It is a powerful message and this is the main reason I watch the Hunger Games. Saying that, this movie does lack a good fight scene. Even I was a little disappointed at the wasted build-up for a fight in the Capitol at the very end of the film. The only true action set-piece we get is the one seen in the trailer where Katniss gives her new explosive arrows a try. Admittedly, that is a pretty awesome visual.
What we do get instead of action is some pretty solid performances from every actor on show? Mockingjay might be different from the other two Hunger Games, but the characters hold it together, to the point where you realise that you don’t mind Francis Lawrence moving away from formula, because we just want to follow the characters and see what happens to them. The benefit of the slower approach to Mockingjay is that everyone gets some time to sink their teeth into their characters. Sam Claflin was likeable enough, but a little hollow as a supporting character. Despite his screen time being clipped, he works with what he has got and hits home with some stand-out monologues. Liam Hemsworth finally gets some opportunities to show everyone what he is made of and he is impressive to watch, especially when he and Jennifer Lawrence are allowed to spend some quieter moments together. The newer characters aren’t as fleshed out, but Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer and House of Card’s Mahershala Ali still impress by just standing around and looking awesome. Other complaints arising from this film could be that some of the fan favourites are pushed into the background. Peeta and Johanna are reduced to the occasional mention (Jena Malone gets a single frame in the whole movie!), and Hamish, Effie and Snow only seem to feature in events, because a lot of people would revolt if they didn’t get a mention. But of course, we always can rely on Jennifer Lawrence to amaze. The only reason she doesn’t get nominations every time she delivers an emotionally-charged, stunning speech as Katniss Evergreen is because there is a very real fear that there won’t be any awards for the rest of the women in Hollywood. She really is the most impressive starlet Hollywood has to offer right now and at the very least, Mockingjay serves as a Jennifer Lawrence vehicle for her biggest fans.
But the thing that really makes me fall into the pro-Mockingjay Part One camp is the fact that I totally believe that splitting the book into two films was the correct choice. Why? There are so many smaller beats to this film that we wouldn’t have had if the two films were condensed into one. A deer in District 13 meets a human for the first time. The rebels are united by a war song, sang beautifully by Jennifer Lawrence herself. Sometimes, it is just a small joke to lighten the mood. Appreciate this movie for the smaller scenes. The blockbuster action will come next year. Hunger Games has proven itself to be worth the wait.
Final Verdict: Slower than we would like, but the thrill is still there. The actors shine, the political message still hits home and the story is as powerful as ever.