The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)

MockingjayPart1Poster3.jpgWar Games

Director: Francis Lawrence
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman

When The Hunger Games entered cinema in 2012, it came along with baggage. Unfair comparisons were made to the Twilight franchise, due to the female lead being caught in a love triangle, and Battle Royale due to an initially similar premise. But since that first motion picture, the franchise has grown to show that, when you get to the heart of it, it isn't truly about the titular games. Instead, it's taken the time to explore many adult themes, including war, rebellion and politics, while the social allegories have come through exceptionally well, helping make this franchise one that improves with each entry.

Following the destruction of both the games and District 12, Katniss (Lawrence) is taken to District 13. There, she becomes the symbol for the rebellion against the Capitol, with the goal to save Peeta from their clutches.

Unfortunately, the latest entry in this franchise falls victim to 'Part One' syndrome, which leaves the story without a final act because of the decision to divide the tale over two films. But this negative does not affect the film as a whole, for the acts which are presented are are very well told.

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Considering the previous two films contained quite the explosive action scenes, director Francis Lawrence is brave to lessen this aspect to focus primarily on scenes of dialogue. The biggest action moment brings Zero Dark Thirty to mind, with the focus again being on the dialogue, which is a bold decision for a blockbuster film, and certainly pays off.

To survive the horrendous title games cannot be an easy thing to deal with, as seen by Haymitch's alcoholism, and it was only a matter of time before the effects took their toll on Katniss and Peeta. It is here we see how changed and broken the winners of the 74th Hunger Games have been left, with a great sadness evident in their eyes. But while Katniss draws deep to unleash anger towards The Capitol's actions, Peeta is more fragile, and both Lawrence and Hutcherson do outstanding jobs in portraying this.

Liam Hemsworth is given the most amount of work to do since the franchise began, bringing a likeable performance into a bland role, while Donald Sutherland is clearly relishing the role of his villainous character. Natalie Dormer also brings a great presence to her new character of Cressida.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 bravely steps away from the big action scenes to focus on the dialogue, resulting in a fantastic first beginning to this franchises' grand finale.