With one more film to go in Hollywood’s Hunger Games franchise, it’s clear that the filmmakers are saving their big guns, and big battles, for next year’s finale.
For the most part, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is dour, dark and talky: jaw, jaw rather than war, war as Jennifer Lawrence’s renegade warrior Katniss Everdeen, newly rescued by the rebels of District 13, reluctantly joins the propaganda battle against fascistic President Snow (Donald Sutherland), ruler of the dystopian future America imagined by novelist Suzanne Collins in her bestselling trilogy.
Coerced by Julianne Moore’s silver-haired resistance leader President Coin into being the star of a series of rousing propaganda videos, Katniss is the face of the revolution. She’s a singularly glum one, though, wracked as she is by traumatic flashbacks to her time in the games and conscience-torn by the use of her friend Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as a propaganda tool by the other side.
With much of the action around her confined to the insurgents’ underground bunkers, the film matches her sombre mood. Even Effie Trinket, the bubble-headed Capitol fashionista played by Elizabeth Banks, looks drab in her boiler suit and bandana, though the task of turning Katniss into the ‘best-dressed rebel in history’ quickly perks her up. ‘Everyone will want to kiss you, kill you or be you,’ she trills.
Where last year’s Catching Fire was in many respects a re-run of the first film, this sequel takes the series in a new direction with timely urgency, exploring the pros and cons of revolution and the manipulative power of propaganda. And just as Katniss’s iconic presence proves uplifting for the story’s downtrodden masses amid the prevailing grimness, it’s Lawrence’s charisma, plus the nuances she brings to her conflicted character, that keeps us on side, too.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 123 mins. Director Francis Lawrence.
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