Complete A-Z list

Hunger Games, The: Mockingjay Part 1


Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Mahershala Ali, Natalie Dormer, Wes Chatham, Elden Henson, Paula Malcomson, Evan Ross

Director: Francis Lawrence

If you hear loud sloshing while watching the second-to-last film in the successful series don’t bother to complain to the projectionist – it’s simply the sound of something Hollywood can do in its sleep (and all too often in the sleep of paying picturegoers as well) which is milking a cash cow for maximum profit.

So the producers of this hit franchise have split the final novel in the franchise in half, thus ensuring to massive bites at the box-office for the price of one.

Where the emphasis in its predecessor The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was firmly in action, here it would seem that series addicts will have to wait until the final film to savour the series’ trademark action sequences.

There is some effective action, of course, and spectacle is not absent but interestingly here director Francis Lawrence and screenwriter/adaptors Peter Craig and Danny Strong have taken a more intellectual approach to the story, by vividly illustrating the creation and execution of corrupt official propaganda that would make British election-driven politician green with professional envy.

The filmmakers sensibly showcase Jennifer Lawrence, who rewards them with a strong and compelling performance that compensates (at least for those audiences who are willing to think as well as simply exude adrenaline watching vivid action sequences). Lawrence hits her marks well, beginning with her in District 13 after she had shattered the Hunger Games forever.

Now, however, she fires far fewer arrows while battling new and less obvious enemies, the crooked officialdom led by President Julianne Moore that wants to cast her as the face and voice of public propaganda. “We need a voice”, states Moore and spin-doctor Philip Seymour Hoffman gets her to “shoot scenes for propaganda films” in war zones.

Lawrence is the dramatic centre of the story and she carries it well, especially considering that for the first time in the franchise the emphasis is firmly intellectual rather than simply action-driven. Moore, too, impresses, Hoffman in his second-to-last role oozes PR insincerity from every pore, Stanley Tucci’s polished TV interviewer is even more professionally oily than the real thing while Donald Sutherland is both magisterial and as untrustworthy and shallow as any real-life US President.

It helps a great deal if you’ve seen the franchise films but while central story is more character than action driven, Mockingjay still thrills on its own intellectual terms.

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor.
122 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Dec 2014