Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is a place setting movie. Ever since Hollywood figured out there were big bucks to be made from splitting finales into two parts, the game is on, and it works. They get my money. I’ve read the series by Suzanne Collins, and I do recommend the books. It’s not too late. You get more of the descriptions of despair and fuller characterizations. But if you are only watching the films, then be sure to watch this Part 1. The first Hunger Games gave us Katniss and Peta as wily competitors from District 12. Catching Fire had the two playing the game better with heightened stakes. By the end, District 12 has been destroyed and Katniss is the model for the growing revolution.
Now, Katniss has been pulled out from under President Snow’s nose. Hiding in the once rumored ruined District 13, Katniss worries about Peta’s status captured in the Capitol. He’s transmitting a message of forgiveness under duress. Katniss does not believe he turned into one of “them”. She’s torn between Gael and Peta. She misses Cinna. She’s unsure of her message as the mockingjay. The district president, played by Julianne Moore, is wise and wants Katniss to recognize her potential as a leader. As Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) ventures out on missions, sees the destruction and poverty, her stoic demeanor cracks and she vows to do what she can.
There are a lot of quiet moments in Mockingjay, but the tense undercurrent heightens the urgency of the situation. As the propaganda machines heat up and Katniss is showered in white tulips, she knows her battle with President Snow is for the sake of the world. Jennifer Lawrence just keeps getting better as an actress – she can look so sad and forlorn, and then kick butt. Donald Sutherland is suitably sinister. Liam Hemsworth, as Gael, is loyal to the revolution and fights hard for Katniss’s heart. Josh Hutcherson, as Peta, is soulful and tortured. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Plutarch, is plucky (his performance makes us sad to know he’s gone). And Woody Harrelson is a hoot as a regrettably sober Hammish.
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 makes us hungry for the true finale. It’s well filmed, has plenty of action, and gives us fear, sorrow, worry, and some humor. Raise your three fingers, and give the soulful mockingjay whistle. Katniss needs rebels on her side.