After the events of Catching Fire a revolution has started in the Districts against the Capitol, with everyone looking towards Katniss as their Mockingjay.
Jennifer Lawrence - Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson - Peeta Mellark
Liam Hemsworth - Gale Hawthorne
Woody Harrelson - Haymitch Abernathy
Donald Sutherland - President Snow
Julianne Moore - President Alma Coin
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Plutarch Heavensbee
What the young adult market desperately needed after having Twilight shoved down its throat was an intelligent, remarkable and socially critical franchise, which was provided in the form of The Hunger Games, the excellent film adaptations of Suzanne Collins' popular books. Although the first film was rather good, Catching Fire really took audiences and critics breathes away and was surprisingly one of the best films of the year. In true modern franchise form though to squeeze as much money as possible from its fans, the finale Mockingjay has been unnecessarily split into two with part one in cinemas now and a long wait until part two hits our cinema screens in a year. So can Part 1 live up to the bar set by Catching Fire despite being adapted from only half of a book, and not even the most exciting half? Well... actually surprisingly so. Of course much of the film is about setting the scene for the finale which it does well leaving you on the edge of your seat at the end, but it is also a clever and insightful study into propaganda, fuelled by powerful emotion and a tense story with many unexpected twists. Although the competitions are now over, the real games have clearly now begun.
The film picks up where Catching Fire ended. Our troubled heroine Katniss wakes up to discover that her home District 12 has been destroyed and that the Districts have erupted in revolution with District 13 and President Coin hoping to lead them into full battle against the Capitol, with Katniss as the Mockingjay encouraging this movement. Revolution is truly the core theme of the film as it analyses the emotions and politics involved. Much of the film is spent studying propaganda, as both the Capitol and the rebellion use propaganda to manipulate the public in various ways. The film has interesting things to say about revolution and propaganda, and it is great to see the politics of the series fully explored and exploited. Although some will find the lack of action tedious, the propaganda battle is just as thrilling and really helps build tension leaving you on a cliff-hanger at the end.
The film is not devoid of action though considering it focuses on politics. The focus is on a mass rebellion so of course there are going to be battles and fights, and although they are not on a large scale there is action enough to keep a healthy balance throughout. The action has never been what has fuelled the Hunger Games films though, as it has always been the drilling emotion that drives the films. This film is perhaps the most emotional of the series so far, with the horror and tragedy taking on new levels that makes the film even more striking. All the characters are going through pain, whether it is Gale who has seen his home destroyed, Effie who has been forced to leave the Capitol and even President Snow seems to be suffering as he sees his power slowly fading. Poignant and moving, the film is deeply provoking. Particular scenes will stay with you, the river scene where Katniss sings the beautiful 'The Hanging Tree', the hospital scene where she meets Peeta and the ending that will leave you open-mouthed. As a break from the emotion though there is also humour, with Harrelson's Haymitch of course being the main figure for this especially with the hinted sexual tension he has with Effie.
Casting Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss back in 2011 was an incredibly smart move. Although undiscovered and young at the time, she has now become America's sweetheart, an Oscar winning actress who has delivered many spectacular performances. Her life has developed much like Katniss', from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from undiscovered to being adored around the world. This personal connection she has with the role really shines through and allows her to completely embody every aspect of her character. Yes, her performance may not be as good as it was in American Hustle or [Silver Linings Playbook](movie:207997), but it is much more subtle which makes it perhaps more effective. She makes Katniss real, which allows the audience a greater capability to connect with the character and therefore the story. It is easy to believe in Katniss, a young girl who just wanted to protect her sister and is now expected to be a symbol of revolution thrown into a dangerous world of politics and games. Lawrence gives a remarkable performance that gets stronger and stronger as the films go on, as different sides of Katniss is revealed and explored. We are desperate for her and her family and friends to survive as despite her moods and mardiness she is an incredibly likeable character. This just makes the events of the film even more traumatic and heartbreaking.
It is not just about Lawrence though, although she does steal the show. With many fantastic characters with a great cast to take them on, every actor gives it their all meaning there is no flawed performance in the whole film. Julianne Moore is a new addition as President Coin, a cold and chilly rebellion leader who Katniss is unsure whether to trust. Moore is great in the role and she is sure to get even better in the second half of the finale. Seymour-Hoffman is just as brilliant, and his performance becomes even more striking as it is one of his last after his tragic death earlier this year. Harrelson adds a spark of comedy and charm, Hutcherson develops his character of Peeta further adding emotional depth and we get to see more of Hemsworth's Gale who has an eternal sadness surrounding him. Elizabeth Banks' Capitol queen Effie goes through an interesting development as she is stripped of her wigs and thrown into the read world, a development Banks deals with with perfection making her character even more endearing to the audiences.
Although it shouldn't work well, The Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay - Part 1 is a triumph! It can be slow at times and certainly could do with a few more doses of action here and there, but overall it is tense, emotional and completely thrilling. A departure from the previous films as we step out of the arena the real games have now begun with Mockingjay taking on a more political approach with an interesting study of propaganda and revolution. You will cry, smile, laugh, nearly fall of the edge of your seat and be left agape at a cliffhanger that you wish could be resolved tomorrow but instead you need to wait a whole year! Bring on Part 2 (soon please)!