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James Porter

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

Directed By: Francis Lawrence.

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland.

In the third installment of The Hunger Games franchise, the games are over, and the rebellion has started! Katniss is sent to District 13 as she is trained to become the symbol of hope against the Capitol; The Mockingjay.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 proves that this franchise was never about the actual Hunger Games, there is so much more going on. It is in this film where we finally get to the point of the series, the districts rising up against the Capitol.

Catching Fire blew me away last year and was one of the biggest surprises of 2013, bringing Francis Lawrence on board this franchise was a very smart move. He has escalated this series to a level I didn't think possible after seeing the first film. In Catching Fire he established a world, he established the Capitol, the greed and corruption that it contains, in Mockingjay Part 1, we are shown the other side of Panem. We go into the much talked about District 13, whose residents take refuge underground after the Capitol bombed the surface some time ago.

Mockingjay broadens the scope on the world of Panem and whilst feeling bigger, it also feels like the most personal Hunger Games to date. Katniss is used as a symbol, she goes on location with camera crews to film propaganda videos so that the districts will join the fight against the Capitol, but whilst doing this she is also fearing for the life of Peeta who is now held captive by the Capitol and is being used as their symbol against the rebellion.

The film boasts an impressive cast comprised of new and familiar faces. The late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman adds a touch of humor and gravitas to the film as Plutarch Heavensby who we were introduced to in Catching Fire. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks return as Haymitch and Effie, there roles are much smaller this time around but they still add a lot to the picture. Sam Claflin, Jena Malone and Josh Hutcherson have smaller roles which of course will be expanded on in Part 2 of this grand finale. Julianne Moore is perhaps the most memorable newcomer as President Coin, the leader of District 13.

Director Francis Lawrence yet again proves that he is perfect for this series, expanding the characters and the progressively interesting world of Panem. As the budget has yet again increased, the film looks much more polished than the last two installments, the visual effects are a solid improvement on what we've previously seen and make this world feel all the more real. In addition to spectacle, there is a sense of horror and dread throughout the entire film as the Capitol reigns terror on the innocents of each District.

Now the games are over, there isn't a lot in the action category here, but what we do get is very entertaining. I was always more interested in the politics of the Hunger Games far more than the actual Hunger Games, the society that is explored in this franchise is incredibly layered and captivating.

There are moments of levity and fun throughout the film but this is without a doubt the darkest entry in the franchise so far. The light moments stop this from becoming a truly depressing experience as some of the events are quite horrifying. Francis Lawrence delivers the most balanced and cohesive story in the series yet.

The romance explored in the previous films is still present but isn't delved into as thoroughly. With Katniss in District 13 and Peeta in The Capitol, the romance takes a break but the connection between the two is still very present. This is a film that focuses more on survival rather than teen romance.

Splitting the novel into two parts at first glance may seem like a bit of a stretch as most of the interesting events occur in the second half of the book. But there is more than enough material here to keep you entertained. Rather than an overload of action scenes we get a deeper look inside the inner workings of the rebellion. There are a few action scenes throughout which was refreshingly different from the other two films which seemed to only have action in the second half.

By the time Mockingjay Part 1 ends I felt something missing, I thoroughly enjoyed the film but the story felt incomplete which is a downside to splitting a story in two. We aren't left with as much of a cliffhanger as we had with Catching Fire but the ending will still leave you wanting more. The ending is surprising,tense and should shock anyone who hasn't read the books like my self.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is the best installment in the series so far, it isn't as action packed but the story of rebellion is incredibly entertaining. Mockingjay Part 1 is an intimate look at the inner workings of a brewing war, a personal and tension filled story. This story is now far bigger than Katniss and proves for definite that these aren't games anymore. I'm giving The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 an 8.8/10!

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