Movie review: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1’ |

Movie review: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1’



Directed By Francis Lawrence

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Rated PG-13, Sci-Fi, 123 minutes

Wending its way toward the final installment due for release next year, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” is the penultimate chapter of the “Hunger Games” franchise, adapted from a series of best-selling young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, and explores the nature of propaganda.

Now residing in District 13 after being rescued and spirited away from the Quarter Quell Arena during Hunger Games that nearly killed her in the second film, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to fulfill her new duties as spokesperson for the rebellion.

Katniss, unable to pull off prepared speeches in artificial settings, is taken to the front lines of the rebellion and to places where the Capitol has cruelly punished innocent citizens of Pan Am.

From there she is able to deliver spontaneous, passionate and moving monologues to inspire the revolutionary movement. She is accompanied on these forays by Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who also from her district. He is one of two young men who makes her heart quicken.

To Katniss’ dismay, her other potential heartthrob and Hunger Game’s partner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is being held captive at the Capitol, from where he is interviewed daily on TV by government shill Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci).

As Peeta speaks out against the rebellion, Katniss realizes from his gaunt look and odd-sounding voice and words that Peeta is either being brainwashed, tortured or both. However, his love of Katniss prevents him from speaking ill of her, no matter how much Caesar prompts Peeta to do so.

With information strictly censored by the Capitol, Peeta doesn’t know that Katniss’ innate distrust of authority has made her unsure whether those running the rebellion have taken up the cause for the right reasons. So, before agreeing to act as spokeswoman, Katniss elicits a promise from District 13’s President Coin that Peeta will not be charged or imprisoned for his words on behalf of the Capitol.

Less of an action film than the first two, this third chapter examines Katniss’ emotional state as she reluctantly accepts and wears the mantle of the rebellion’s symbolic mockingjay bird.

Julianne Moore as President Coin, and the late, Philip Seymour Hoffman as her right hand man, are a well-matched pair bringing a measure of realism to their commitment to oust a corrupt government.

Lawrence’s take on Katniss is generally understated, which is helpful since she’s in virtually every scene and usually its focal point. Those hoping for an action-focused romp may be disappointed, but this installment flourishes because each plot development and every emotion feels organic and deepens the import of Katniss’ situation.

Collins, whose paranoid tale about the tendency of those in power to use fear-mongering tactics to retain control, allows us to know Katniss and her cohorts better.

Therefore, for what feels like the first time, I look forward to revisiting Collins’ “Hunger Games.”

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