Mockingjay Part One: Film Review.

 Release Date (UK): 20/11/2014
 Rating: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, Julianne Moore.

Caution: Contains spoilers for the other books and films.  
When I started reading the Hunger Games back in early 2010, I never imagined it would produce a set of blockbusting films in the subsequent years to come.  Not to say it wasn't worthy of a book to film deal, the story, characters and plot are incredible; I just didn't imagine it.  I remember being recommended the book by a fellow book blogger, Sophie, on one of her mailbox posts and I was thoroughly intrigued.  A book about the future, a book about a dystopian society where inhabitants are split into districts, serving a power-hungry and oppressive capitol. A book about a society which makes young 'tributes' fight in a dangerous and televised battle to the death?  

So, three books and two films later; here we are.  Whilst I did enjoy the first two films, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire; Mockingjay was truly something else.  I elected not to review the first two films (you can see my book reviews on my alternative blog for books here (The Hunger Games) and here (Catching Fire)

 I remember taking an age to read Mockingjay, because I was so worried about how it would end.  It was a book that broke my heart into a million pieces for many reasons.  Part one of the film, has done the same; here's my review.

On a freezing, rainy Friday morning I got up to see Mockingjay: Part One at the cinema in the midlands, where I live.  It's one of those fancy cinemas with comfy, nice seating and leg room.  Coffee in hand, I prepared myself, as I've done for so many of the final films in my favourite series', for a few hours of immersion in fantasy. Catching Fire taught us one valuable lesson: the victors of the Hunger Games, who are promised prized fame and fortune, never truly escape; because no one escapes these vicious games.  The Mockingjay book already set the bar quite high - watchers and fans of the series and those who had seen Catching Fire, already know that this book/film is where all the events come to a head; when secrets are realised and a fresh rebellion is ignited.  

Katniss is now in District 13, a district that everyone thought was destroyed in the last uprising with a band of rebels who formulated a plan to get her out.  Katniss is now a symbol of a new uprising, a new rebellion.  But where is Peeta?  The Capitol is angry and it's only a matter of time before fresh conflict begins...

This film was absolutely astonishing.  I really don't know how else to describe it. Whilst the first two films and books have all the action and emotion of the games and of Katniss' new relationship with Peeta; this is something else.   Where the districts were once silently oppressed and tributes made examples of, in a war raging arena serving as an example to all, the threat of war and rebellion is echoing in the districts.  Katniss is to be the face of a cause, but with her spirits diminished by the last games and Snow's silent menacing threat of retaliation, it's difficult to see if she will be able to hold up.

Speaking of holding up, Jennifer Lawrence is one of the clear victors (no pun intended) of this film.  I doubted her abilities as Katniss in the first film, was more swayed in the second.  As a fan of the books previously, I always envisioned my own Katniss - and I found Lawrence a bit wooden in some scenes in the first film. But Lawrence employs the range of difficult emotions that Katniss experiences - from memories of terror to anger to grief.  She's believable, she's raw.  The emotion is almost tangible from the screen. 
Haunted by her own grief and guilt at leaving Peeta behind and pushed into the underground, structured routine of District 13, Katniss is not the girl on fire that everyone knew - a point made by President Coin (Julianne Moore). But I'd argue if she ever was that girl, unless inspired by the suffering of other people, like in the hospital bombing scene - she can't make it up on screen to be the face of the revolution, she has to be faced with real tragedy to become the girl they want her to be.
 Plutarch Heavensbee (the late, great Phillip Seymour-Hoffman) reassures her that given the right circumstance, she is the face they need to lead the campaign. Moore and Hoffman deliver in this film, Seymour-Hoffman's Plutarch Heavensbee almost menacing, propaganda-spinning genius waging to fight a rebellion.  Coin's deadpan, almost cold attitude is well acted by Moore.

Everyone steps up in this film, Gale is finally given purpose in the all-out invasion to save Peeta's life and Liam Hemsworth delivers Gale's usually longing puppy-dog looks with a new edge of raw emotion in scenes with Katniss. He delivers the heart-wrenching line about Katniss only noticing him when he's in pain; I thought it added an extra dimension to his character and their relationship.  Then there's Peeta, poor Peeta, who is now the Capitol's pawn - Josh Hutcherson's aching, wounded, weary acting is just incredible.  You'll have to watch it to see what I mean.

The film isn't without humour (as found in the loveable Effy Trinket) but packs more heart this time around.  Yes, it's been made into two films (a lot of people don't agree on this decision) but it's worth it - Part One shows us a rebellion and the beginnings of a difficult end, but it's Part Two that will surely pack the biggest punch.  Check out the trailer here:


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