Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 - 8 stars out of 10

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 - 8 stars out of 10

“Mockingjay - Part 1” is really good and I don’t care what anybody else has to say about it.  I heard a lot of mixed reviews upon its release and was leery of a “nothing-really-happens-because-we’re-just-setting-up-the-big-finale” approach, but I found it to dodge the repetitiveness bullet by moving away from action and focusing on its riveting political subtext.  In fact, this film manages to hold its ground with its two extremely successful and entertaining predecessors.   For me, the success of the series begins with acting.  The producers of this film have been diligent about bringing in top-notch actors to make this into a movie series that will last beyond its hype (do you even know anybody who still watches “Twilight”?).  Jennifer Lawrence is the best investment.  Most people forget that she was nominated for an Oscar in 2010, two years before the first “Hunger Games” was released, but her acting drives the momentum of each film.  Her impassioned speech after the bombing of District 8 says it all.  That was the moment that I realized that she is one of the greatest actors of the next generation.  In the series, the key is that her powerful performance is matched by the rest of the cast.  Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, and the introduction of Julianne Moore into the series provide Oscar-calibre acting paired with appeal to teenagers.  With such strong acting, everything else falls into place.  The writing of this script was great, creating an increasingly unsettling view of the Capitol’s power and developing the characters to draw us deeper into the “Which guy does she love?” debate.  The movie really surprised me with a tactical extraction sequence that rivals “Zero Dark Thirty.”  Everything really came together for this film, from concept to script to acting to editing.  My only complaint is that the cliffhanger ending is rough, though there are definitely worse spots that they could have ended the film.  “Mockingjay - Part 1” isn’t my favorite of the series, but it might be once it is connected with Part 2!

For my review of Part 2, click here:

[Pictured: "And if we burn, you burn with us!" Still get chills thinking about that speech]

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