The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1: Movie ReviewCast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin
Director: Francis Lawrence
So, here it is - the beginning of the end of Suzanne Collins' trilogy.
Last time, you'll remember that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ended with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) being wrenched out of the Games of the Quarter Quell but finding that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was left behind, and that District 12 where she used to live had been razed as the rebellion began to take effect.
In this latest, President Snow (Donald Sutherland bringing a degree of absentee menace as the white-clad bad guy from afar) ramps up his campaign against the symbol of the revolution, Katniss, by decreeing all out war against the rebels and districts who have turned upon the Capitol.
Trapped in District 13 with her family, and finding herself part of the media war against the Capitol as Julianne Moore's president and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman's Plutarch push her to ignite the simmering embers of revolution. But Katniss finds that being the spearhead comes at a price - and her concern for Peeta trapped within the Capitol could threaten those plans...
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 follows up the relative action of the first two films with many deep (and occasionally powerful) philosophical discussions and demonstrations about the propaganda of war and the symbolic (and literal) weaponisation of revolutionary figure-heads.
Granted, there is very much the feeling that this funereal almost dirge-like movie is a dragged-out set-up for the final resolution and second chapter of Mockingjay as it negotiates the horrors of war and the post-traumatic effects on the survivors (our first re-introduction to the damaged Katniss sees her rocking back and forth, trying desperately to remind herself who she is and what's happened, scrabbling to retain some grip on a reality).
In among the rubble, and the strewn corpses of District 12's warzone, Jennifer Lawrence once again excels as Everdeen, as she frantically fights to try and keep the human cost front of her mind during the ongoing war and her assimilation into a revolutionary hero. Viewed in (almost) completion, this Everdeen has come far and Lawrence is able to harness the horrors as the debates take precedence over the action. (Perhaps, this almost depressing feel may prove too much for some). There's a harrowing quality to the ongoing plight, an acknowledgement that being the symbol can be overwhelming and an almost humanity to help through the overly demonstrated horrors of war - and Lawrence encapsulates those qualities of reluctance perfectly even channeling extremely dead eyes in several scenes as she becomes numbed to the reality of the world around her.
The romance is dialled down in this drab character-study based outing (that's almost as dour as the overalls worn by the inhabitants of 12; a far cry from the vibrant excesses of life within the Capitol) and unfortunately, Liam Hemsworth doesn't quite gel as much as perhaps he should. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Plutarch proves to be a welcome driving force for the film (and proffers up the conundrum of how his missing presence will be handled in the final outing after the movie's dedicated to him); Elizabeth Banks' Effie appears to be some kind of Land Girl prisoner of war and lacks the sparkle and Julianne Moore is relatively straight as President Coin who operates in a POTUS style as the strategies are espoused from within the bunker as the war effort readies itself.
At its core, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 is more a psychological tale of after-effects and the strategies of war. But there are patches which are doused with such a slow ponderous pace, you very nearly drift off before the Desert Storm style action sequence that sees the rebels trying to free the Tributes.
In among the exposition and expansion of the viewpoints, there's a good film lurking trying to break free of the embers, but there's not quite the urgency and perils of the prior outings (perhaps, in some ways, a blessing) in this almost mournful tale that works better as a completed first part than many other films split in two from their original tomes.
It remains to be seen if the closure is worth the build up; but in the words of famous polemic Tracey Chapman, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is an awful lot of Talking Bout a Revolution.