By: AISLING MCENTEGART
The immensely popular Hunger Games franchise has continued with the current trend of splitting the final book in popular series into two separate film installments. The first of which, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” opens in movie theaters across the nation starting today.
The film picks up just shortly after the events depicted in the previous film, “Catching Fire.” Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has been broken out of the Hunger Games arena by rebels from District 13, with the help of a few other participants in the games. Until now, it was widely believed that District 13 had been completely destroyed by the Capitol and all of its inhabitants killed, following an uprising. The underground self-sufficient District 13 presents the audience with a striking contrast the Capitol: democratic, thrifty and moderate in terms of appearance.
The Katniss seen in this film is unstable and racked with all consuming guilt over the fact that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), along with two other victors have been left behind and are now in the hands of ruthless President Snow (Donald Sutherland). What this film lacks in glamor and extravagance, compared to the previous films, is made up for with stellar performances and raw tangible emotion.
The performance given by Lawrence is nothing short of jaw dropping. She manages to simultaneously portray Katniss’ lack of emotional stability and vulnerability, whilst allowing the strength of the character to shine though. Sutherland is another clear stand out. His callous portrayal of President Snow is enough to make the audience shiver with fear. Hutcherson does a wonderful job of presenting a strained and increasingly frightful Peeta, who primarily appears in the form of propaganda messages broadcasted by the Capitol.
One of the most heartbreaking ironic aspects of Peeta’s imprisonment is that he has become yet another chess piece to the Capitol, that can be discarded the moment he has fulfilled his purpose. In the first film when he was initially chosen as a tribute, this was the very thing he feared most. Sadly, his nightmare has come true and he has become a weapon of those whom he hates. With each propaganda video, Peeta becomes increasingly jittery and more worn looking than in the last, much to the upset of Katniss.
Although for the first time, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) receives more screen time than Peeta, the viewer’s attention never waivers from Peeta and his plight. This creates an interesting metaphor and emphasizes the fact that even when Gale has more screen time than Peeta, he is never the primary focus in Katniss’ mind. When Peeta is in danger, Gale is little more than a footnote in her life.
Amidst the intensity of this film, snippets of comic relief are provided in the form of a less flamboyantly dressed Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), who struggles to come to terms with the strict lifestyle enforced by District 13 and the now sober Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), both of whom who are key factors in Katniss’ rise as the Mockingjay.
Another positive addition to “The Hunger Games” franchise is “Game of Thrones” actress Natalie Dormer, who portrays Cressida, a filmmaker who has run from the Capitol to join the rebel cause in an understated, yet memorable manner.
Julianne Moore also joins the cast, portraying the no-nonsense leader of District 13, President Alma Coin. This iron lady-esque character locks horns will Katniss several times throughout the film. Katniss manages to gain the respect of Coin by standing her ground and insisting upon several conditions before agreeing to become the face of the revolution.
The film has the audience in a thrilling sense of suspense from the moment it begins until the dramatic conclusion. The ending leaves the viewer itching for more, which they will unfortunately have to wait another year for.