Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 directed by Francis Lawrence, written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong from the.


THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 directed by Francis Lawrence, written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong from the book by Suzanne Collins, with Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth. 123 minutes. An eOne release. Opens Friday (November 21). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN

Its tempting to give two ratings for the third instalment of the Hunger Games, one for people whove seen the previous two, another for those who want to see Mockingjay but havent read the books and missed the pics. I advise the maybe 20 people who fall into the latter category that Mockingjay Part 1 does not stand alone.

Even fans who know everything about Katniss Everdeens story will find this edition thin on energy and action.

It begins with Hunger Games winner and now budding rebel Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) holed up in District 13, ground zero for the military arm of the revolution against the Capitol and evil President Snow (the gloriously slimy Donald Sutherland).

District 13 leaders want to make Katniss the Mockingjay, the public face of the rebellion. She wont agree unless they rescue her (maybe) main squeeze Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the clutches of the Capitol.

Except for this rescue operation and the Capitols all-out air assault on District 13, Mockingjay doesnt have a lot of tension. Weird how its absorbing nevertheless.

Several elements make it so. A sequence in which the communications team develops propaganda ads featuring Katniss is a fascinating meditation on ad industry tactics. Theres also increasing sexual tension between Katniss and homeboy Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

And its startling to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman to whom the movie is dedicated in action, even if he appears to be sleepwalking through the performance. Julianne Moore, too, is strangely flat as District 13s president, lacking charisma in a way that, given her chops, has to be intentional, though I cant imagine what the intent might be.

But its Lawrence who drives this thing, and shes riveting. Shes the one who carries the pics emotional weight, expertly conveying Katnisss maturity and growing resolve.

Otherwise Mockingjay, well made though it is, definitely keeps the franchise in a holding pattern. Thatll make anticipation for the finale all the more breathless.

susanc@nowtoronto.com | @susangcole

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