The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – film review

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Mockingjay is the first instalment of the Hunger Games trilogy which doesn’t have an eponymous game in the arena. I felt the film was lacking something and maybe that was it.

The final book in this dystopian trilogy has been split into two films, and having read the books, it seems that most of the major plot points and events have been held back for the film finale. It reminded me of the penultimate Harry Potter film, which was the first half of the Deathly Hallows book – a solid film, but not very satisfying as all the best bits are saved for the last instalment.

That’s not to say that Part 1 wasn’t action-packed. The film sees our heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) awake in District 13 after being airlifted in a rescue from the Quarter Quell Hunger Games arena, along with her ally Finick Odair (Sam Claflin). It was believed that Panem only consisted of 12 districts after 13 was bombed flat for rebelling. But the district has gone underground, literally, and is growing in strength and numbers as more people turn against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capitol.

Also joining the rebels in District 13 are Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Katniss’s mother and sister, and Effie (Elizabeth Banks) – who is feeling bereft without her makeup, wigs and fabulous clothes. Seeing her try to adapt to the impoverished living conditions was one the highlights of the film, as Banks plays her with such humour and sensitivity.

It was also nice to see more of Hemsworth as the love triangle between Gale, Katniss and Peeta had seemed somewhat two-sided with the previous films focused on ‘lovers’ Katniss and Peeta in the arenas.

Leading the rebels and all-star cast is President Coin (Julianne Moore swapping her trademark luscious red locks for salt and pepper hair) and former Game Maker Plutarch Havensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final performance). They want to use Katniss as propaganda in her mockingjay form, which has already sparked riots, to prompt the other districts to join the fight against the Capitol.

Katniss reluctantly agrees, so long as Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the other tributes who are still being held captive by the Capitol, are rescued. But it seems that Peeta has been brainwashed and is, in turn, being used by Snow as propaganda against the mockingjay movement.

So in something of a war of attrition, the film sees Katniss venture out to a destroyed district 12 with film maker Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and then further afield to try to help those who are suffering. All while avoiding bomb dropped by the Capitol, before retaliating with their own explosives.

It’s nice to see some females packing a punch in the film, obviously Katniss, and Lawrence herself, are great feminist role models, but there’s also Coin who is a strong and stoic leader, Cressida is a kick-ass rebel (just look at the shaved head and tattoos) and even Katniss’s little sister Primose is intelligent, loving and brave – training as a doctor and risking her life to save her cat.

The scenes where Katniss, Cressida and co venture out to shoot the propaganda videos were composed well, with Lawrence once again proving her acting chops; the despair is etched across her face when she sees her old hometown reduced to rubble and dead bodies.

The film was well shot in general, with sturdy but agile camera work following the propaganda team and the dark lighting setting the mood for the dinghy underground scenes in District 13. The only real scenes of light and colour are through the television when we have a glimpse of the Capitol during Peeta’s interviews. Without the glistening wealth of the Capitol, Panem is a dark place.

Mockingjay was an enjoyable film, but I left feeling like I wanted more; the fire didn’t quite catch. Perhaps as I have read the books, I knew what to expect and so was over-anticipating acts that are being saved for part two. It can’t come soon enough.

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