The beginning of the end has started. The third installment of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy has gone from the last man standing survival of the games to a political thriller, as the rebels of the disavowed District 13 declare war against the Capitol and its ruthless leader President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
In case you missed it or haven’t read the two previous books, heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) shot an arrow into the sky and destroyed the Quarter Quell arena in the process. She and fellow champions Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) were taken to the mythical District 13, where she was reunited with her family and her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Peeta Meelark (Josh Hutcherson) and 3 other victors were captured and taken to the Capitol.
Once inside District 13, which has a military-like atmosphere, Katniss has to contend with the domineering President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). She and our old buddy Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) want Katniss to become the Mockingjay, the beacon of hope and the face of the revolution. The ultimate goal is for the 13 Districts to unite as one to take down the Capitol.
Jennifer Lawrence’s star power continues to rise in the film series. She brings such pain, ferocity and bravery to the role that made her a household name. The core cast of Mockingjay delivers some dynamic energy to this installment, although there is a sad reminder when we see the late and great Hoffman on the screen. Although he shot the majority of his scenes for the two Mockingjay films before his untimely death in February, watching him now is heartbreaking. Hoffman brought some much-needed frivolity to the movie. You can tell that he loved this role.
Oscar nominee Julianne Moore adds layers and just a hint of an authoritarian air to President Alma Coin. She could have been played just as an archetype, but Moore delivers a stellar performance. Donald Sutherland’s President Snow is so evil and charming, making people both love and hate him for being so ruthless. It makes his affinity for maintaining order in his idea of utopia even more dreadful.
On a technical level, Mockingjay Part 1 is dark, gritty and exciting. While there are no Hunger Games or Quarter Quells here, we still get to see a picturesque canvas of a world on the verge of war that hits close to home.
I liked that Mockingjay Part 1 makes you feel that Katniss is a pawn in a war that is being fought through the use of literal and figurative weapons (such as the media). No hearts or minds will be changed during the course of the movie as the sides are already in place. If you have read the final book, you would instantly catch on to the very heart of the matter that having power can create an immoral soul and that politics (even in real life) makes for deplorable business for both the residents of the Capitol and the districts.
Mockingjay Part 1 also does its job by gearing up fans for the second and final part of the series, which the world will have to wait until Nov. 20, 2015. Judging by the first half, the odds are in favor that Part 2 will blow our minds.
FINAL GRADE: A