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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 24, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Performances fuel narrative in ‘Hunger Games’

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I"

Directed by Francis Lawrence

There are several things that the “Girl on Fire” knows are true. She knows her name is Katniss Everdeen. She is 17 years old. Her home is District 12. She was in the Hunger Games and escaped. The Capitol hates her. Her lover, Peeta, was taken prisoner and is probably dead. These thoughts swirl through Katniss’ head as she finds herself losing her mind in a hospital in District 13.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” follows the beginning portion of Katniss’ final rebellious act in the last novel of the thrilling three-part series. In this film, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is brought to District 13 after one of her flying arrows in the previous movie created a spark throughout Panem. All the districts have revolted against President Snow and the Capitol, which leaves Katniss, the “Mockingjay,” to lead the rebellion. However, as she is dealing with being forced into this leadership, she is also battling heartbreak when she discovers that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is being held captive in the Capitol, along with one of her allies, Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), and Finnick Odair’s (Sam Claflin’s) crazy lover, Annie Cresta (Stef Dawson). As the Mockingjay, her only mission is to make sure that Peeta is rescued from the evil president.

This movie has a different atmosphere than the others of the series, because this time there aren’t any games. Most of the action is centered around saving Peeta and the revolts happening in the other districts. Bombings, fighting, killing, all of these violent elements of the plot put the audience on edge. If the games weren’t bad enough, viewers are left in District 13, waiting anxiously on how this war between Katniss and Snow is going to turn out. The audience also questions what is to become of Peeta as it watches him gradually fall under control of the Capitol and become another one of Snow’s pawns in his manipulative game.

Lawrence does a brilliant job showing the psychological change in Katniss’ character. Although she is still portrayed as the powerful, female leader of this revolution, Lawrence does not fail to show Katniss’ inner flaws. Being in the games twice takes a toll on her mental state, and she is paranoid that Snow is out to get her, and everyone is dying trying to fight him. Throughout the film, the audience sees how Katniss has lost faith in herself as a leader and how she questions herself as the Mockingjay.

Hutcherson also succeeds in portraying Peeta as the formerly sweet boy that Katniss knew so well. Even though Hutcherson is not present in the film as much as Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth, who plays Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’ former love interest, viewers still see the progressive breakdown of his character through the forced interviews he has to give. These interviews are to promote the message of ending the rage against the Capitol, and every promotion that Katniss and the audience views shows Peeta becoming more gaunt and distressed.

The cinematography of the film and other elements, such as sound effects and the soundtrack, make the audience members feel like they were a part of this civil war. Director Francis Lawrence played with the focus of certain shots to help the crowd feel the chaos and tension around it. Also, the sound effects, like gunshots and bombings, aid in that reality. The overall soundtrack of the film was rousing, and the orchestral score added suspense to many of the scenes.

The film did lack the action that the other films produced so greatly, and some fans of the series complained that the last book shouldn’t have been made into two parts. However, the film didn’t focus so much on the action, but on character development and the overall plan to take down Snow and the Capitol. The lack of action in the first of the two-part film sets a base for the action that is going to explode out of the second part of the final movie. Also, by making the film into two parts, there is a sense of ambiguity among the audience for what is next to come for the Mockingjay.

Whether a fan of the book series or just the movie, “Mockingjay Part 1” is a must see. There is excitement, suspense and great performances by Lawrence, Hemsworth, Hutcherson and the rest of the cast. The film leaves the audience at the edge of its seats as Katniss becomes a symbol of rebellion and leads people to revolution and fights to save Peeta in the process.

Ana Borruto can be reached at aborruto@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @anaborruto