In yet another classic case of predictable Hollywood greed, the final book in Suzanne Collins’ epic Hunger Games trilogy has been split into two films. That means we have to wait another year before we can immerse ourselves in the final chapter of Katniss Everdeen’s hellish journey. But does that necessarily mean part one of the iconic saga is a letdown? Not at all.
The greatest thing this film has going for it is the political propaganda at its center. Mockingjay’s script does a tremendous job of showcasing the power of the media in shaping a rebellion and inspiring the masses. It depicts a war that doesn’t just take place on the battlefield, but on podiums and airwaves – and it’s thoroughly captivating in doing so.
The film rests squarely on Jennifer Lawrence’s shoulders, and she does a terrific job as the film’s lead. Interestingly enough, Katniss’ journey sort of parallels the immense pressure Lawrence recently faced with the whole nude photo scandal. Lawrence is most assuredly a commanding presence, and she anchors the movie through any rough spots. But most impressively, Lawrence sounds great when she sings the film’s signature tune, “The Hanging Tree”, a gorgeous folk song that’s both affecting and inspiring.
Donald Sutherland is also a highlight as the ruthless President Snow. He’s a formidable villain, and yet you never find yourself irritated by his presence. He’s calculating and cutthroat, and he makes for a menacing antagonistic. Mockingjay also marks Julianne Moore’s first turn in the series as President Coin, leader of the rebels in District 13. Moore exudes quiet strength and resilience, and she’s a welcome addition to the franchise.
If I had any complaints, it would be the film’s final shot. Without spoiling anything, I was expecting a powerful and tension-soaked final moment, but instead director Francis Lawrence chose to end the picture with a scene that can only be described as underwhelming. Still, this anticlimax is not enough to undo the rest of the film’s goodwill.
While it might not be the most action-packed entry in the series, Mockingjay Part 1 is an effective and suspenseful film that skilfully sets up the franchise’s climax. Bring on Part 2!