The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Running Time: 2 hours 3 minutes
After shattering the force field around the Quarter Quell and disrupting the games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and the other surviving Victors have been rescued and taken to safety in the military bunkers of District 13. President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) need Katniss to be the face of the fledgling revolution because as the Mockingjay, she has become a rallying point for the downtrodden people of Panem. The Capital has moved swiftly to quash the uprising by demonstrating their capacity for brutality when they completely wipe Katniss’ home, District 12, off of the map and slaughter all of its residents. They also have a figurehead of their own as they trot out the captive Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and force him call for peace and an end to the rebellion. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is willing to take any action necessary to break the will of the people, and his first order of business is to eliminate the Mockingjay.
I am an unabashed fan of the first two films in this series, and I put The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on my list of the best films of last year. That said, I was very apprehensive going into Mockingjay because I think it is not just the worst book of the trilogy, it is a bad book, plain and simple. Suzanne Collins had a brilliant story idea when she started writing, but she didn’t have a coherent ending in place. It is very apparent as you read it that she was lost as to how to wrap it up, leaving it an ugly mess. That is not true of this movie because the cast and the director are so good that they have managed to elevate this material to a much higher level. This is not nearly as action packed or fraught with tension as the first two films and you spend a lot of time watching actors perform monologues, but they are great actors and so the speechifying is more electric than it has any right to be. Sutherland’s cold, controlled calm is terrifying because with the hint of a smile and a narrowing of his eyes we know his soul is black underneath his pristine white suits. Lawrence’semotions are bubbling so close to the surface at all times that they threaten to burst out of her when she sees a hospital full of wounded people get bombed or looks out over a sea of corpses that used to be her friends and neighbors.
My only real problem with the movie is that they split the ending into two parts. I understand maximizing your profits by adding one more movie, but there is not enough meat on the bones of this book to make two full meals out of. You could have moved this story at a significantly faster pace and used thoughtful and decisive editing to make this one 2 and ½ hour movie instead of two 2 hour movies. There are a lot of issues with the end of this story, but making one powerhouse finale could have overridden them whereas I now get to spend the next year worrying if Part 2 is where they finally screw it all up. B