The Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 1 Review

Mockingjay Part 1, the penultimate movie in the Hunger Games quadrilogy, has hit the big screen. One year after Catching Fire, we return to Panem, though this time we move from the Capitol to District 13 where Katniss finds herself after the 75th Hunger Games.

What’s It About? In a not-so-distant future, Panem stands on what used to be the United States. At the centre of it is the Capitol, where the wealthiest part of the population is rolling in money while the rest work hard in the 12 districts to provide food, energy, equipment and entertainment. In punishment for their involvement in a rebellion 76 years ago, each year, the districts have to send one boy and girl to an arena where all the tributes fight until there is just one survivor left.

District 13 was supposedly erased from the map after the first rebellion. While the other districts were endlessly sending their children to die in the barbarous Hunger Games, District 13 was actually being reborn. Year after year, they built an underground network with thousands of rooms and corridors where they grew stronger and more organized until, finally, they were ready to stand against the Capitol. They had the fuel, they just needed the spark.

Katniss was that spark. Her outsmarting of the game-makers during the 74th Hunger Games made her as much a threat to the Capitol as an inspiration to the districts in hope of change.

When she was sent into the arena to fight again for the 75th Games, Katniss did not expect to survive. Her plan was to save Peeta. But that was not what District 13 and President Coin decided. They wanted her to be their symbol. Peeta was left behind at the mercy of the Capitol, doomed to be their talking puppet, looking more and more unfocused and unstable.

Still determined to rescue him, Katniss would do anything to achieve her goal. Even if that meant fighting again, even if that meant being used again. She decided to embrace the Rebellion, to become its face and soul. She decided to be the Mockingjay.

Verdict: You might think that after two movies set in arenas filled with traps, cruel beasts and heartless killers, a third one set in a place with civilised people and no room for blood-thirsty monsters would seem a little quiet.

But you would be wrong! There may be less action than in the previous films, but there is plenty to keep us interested. After all, The Hunger Games is not only about fighting and shedding blood. There is a social and political background to explore.

As he did for Catching Fire, director Francis Lawrence chose to make a movie from a slightly wider perspective than the original book written from Katniss’ point of view. This way, a clear parallelism is shown between District 13 and the Capitol.

Strict, power-hungry, authoritarian and manipulative, head of District 13 President Coin, has a lot in common with her closest rival from the Capitol, President Snow. Moreover, the little glimpses into the Districts and the details that were added to the written trilogy lend further weight to the plot and justify somewhat the decision to adapt the last book into two movies. Suzanne Collins’s credit as part of the writing team makes it likely that she has, if not written the new elements, given them her blessing.

The introduction of a new place provides a chance to meet new characters. The main additions to the cast are Julianne Moore as President Coin and Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones’ Maergery) as Cressida, a propaganda film director.

It is also the occasion to watch characters that were here before adapt and deal with a new environment. Effie (Elizabeth Banks) surprisingly remains herself far from the luxury and extravagances of the Capitol. Gale seems totally at ease with the new rules he has to follow. More self-confident, he seems to understand Katniss’ struggles with love more than she does. Now that his character is actually part of the action, Liam Hemsworth shows that he can be more than just a good-looking, friendzoned hunter in the background. Donald Sutherland, as President Snow, gets better and better at tormenting Katniss, making his character even more cruel and detestable.

Last but not least, Katniss, of course, has a lot to cope with, to put it mildly. Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t make Katniss look stronger than she is. She perfectly embodies her doubts, her fears, and the fragile balance between her wish to choose her path, her self-preservation instinct and her will to protect her loved ones. Lawrence knows her role like the back of her hand. She is never overshadowed by the epicness of it and she always looks convincing.

Final Words: After the presentation of a dystopian world and the display of its political moves and countermoves, Mockingjay Part 1 adds another level of complexity to the situation with the introduction of a structured opponent to the Capitol. Carried by a powerful soundtrack, the struggles of one person become the heroic battle of thousands. The end is close and it will be epic.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is in UK cinemas from 20 November.