Movie Review #911
|Premiered in London on November 10, 2014. Wide release on November 21, 2014. Adventure/Sci-Fi. This film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material. Runs 123 minutes. American production. Director: Francis Lawrence. Screenplay: Peter Craig and Danny Strong. Adaptation: Suzanne Collins. Novel “Mockingjay”: Suzanne Collins. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, and Elizabeth Banks.|
A STEP FURTHER INTO THE POLITICAL ESSENCE OF “THE HUNGER GAMES” SAGA.
By Alexander Diminiano
There’s no point in splitting Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay into two distinct movies–on paper, at least. It works in actuality. Peter Craig and Danny Strong have terrifically translated Suzanne Collins’s novel (excuse me, the first part of it) into a screenplay. They’ve successfully matured this story from an action thriller about televised fights to the death, into a politically influenced parable that documents every bit of tense, fearful preparation for civil war.
Director Francis Lawrence creates a political atmosphere that cannot be forgotten. He takes charge of the story and makes it engaging via familiarity. The progression of the story parallels that of the French Revolution, or the recent coup d’état in Egypt. An even more recent example of ISIS appears in an instance of public execution, further illustrating the oppression faced by civilians in “Mockingjay – Part 1”.
And more so than last year’s “Catching Fire”, this exhibits the flair of the cast involved. Jennifer Lawrence (who isn’t related to the director Francis) has never been better as Katniss Everdeen. This is an even deeper, darker Katniss than the girl we saw last time. She’s now the Mockingjay, the symbol of hope and strength for the rebel forces of Panem.
Meanwhile, the Capitol has Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) under their control, with its President Snow (Donald Sutherland) forcing him to speak out against the rebels in televised interviews. Peeta has been a fair-weather friend of Katniss’s since the two of them stood the only survivors of the 74th hunger games. Actually, fair-weather isn’t the correct term at all: after the 74th hunger games are over, they don’t see each other again until they co-compete in the landmark 75th hunger games. And as Katniss watches the interviews, she begins to worry about Peeta more than ever before.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” (pardon the hefty title) is the finest entry in the series as it currently stands. It’s not a sequel, but the first half of a grand continuation on the first two movies. Having seen the two prerequisites does allow one to greater appreciate some of the additional elements in “Mockingjay – Part 1”. Namely, Julianne Moore. Her performance as the rebel regime’s President Coin forms an awesome pair with Philip Seymour Hoffman (to whose memory the film is dedicated) as Plutarch. The next and final installment be Hoffman’s last appearance in any movie; I only hope that his role in the next half of “Mockingjay” serves much importance as it does to this half. It’s one of many ways the film tells us, “You’ll just have wait and see.” Much of “Mockingjay – Part 1” serves as buildup leading into an expectably strong finale, which we will see next November, but the more “Part 1” builds up, the more it excites.
Postscript: Stay after the credits end. There’s a little surprise there. It’s nothing huge, but it’s something.