‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I’ (2014) Review

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I’m a little late to the party on watching this but I figure the film just got released on home media so I thought I’d put my thoughts up for whoever wanders by.

A major criticism of Mockingjay – Part I is that it lacked action and thus just felt like the stage was being set for the all out war that will probably be Mockingjay II, that it was nothing but padding. I disagree. There was plenty of set pieces, all of them spectacular. I mean, this wasn’t on the scale of The Expendables but it wasn’t exactly a quiet reflective piece either, was it? The war had begun, people were being slaughtered and tension was mounting – and this was something I felt was actually handled rather effectively.

I mean, the tension builds and builds, man. You’ve got that wonderful musical score working away to set the mood, you’ve got all these plot threads – war, tortured lovers, innocents being shot down without mercy. How this can be a complaint is actually a bit odd to me because I liked having that extra two hours in this harsh world and I think both director Francis Lawrence and screenwriters Danny Strong and Peter Craig do an excellent job of maintaining that tension throughout the running time.

Francis Lawrence lends a certain energy to the film, as he did with Catching Fire, and the screenwriters here build tension wonderfully while moving from strong scene to strong scene at a quick pace.

The players here are all in top form. Jennifer Lawrence continues to provide spectacular work as Katniss, effectively being both the fierce warrior and then the still shell-shocked heart underneath that political image. She’s backed up by Elizabeth Banks, who has always been fabulous in her role as Effie – I do love her facial expressions and what she does with her voice -, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who doesn’t get a whole lot to work with but he’s still in top form – rest in peace, good sir – and Julianne Moore, as the tough President Coin. I’m sure we’ll get to see a lot more of her later on in Mockingjay II. Josh Hutcherson is also excellent, as he has a bit more material to work with here, although we’ll see much more of that later this year for sure.

COULD this have been fitted into the one movie? Yeah, probably. For sure. This way, though, the writers have a bit more breathing space to explore the mood, characters and the war. I like that a lot. It’s a two hour film but it’s fast paced, rife with tension, some fabulous character beats and some spectacular sequences.

 

J’s Verdict: ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

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