Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffmann, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Liam Hemsworth, Mahershala Ali
Release date: Thursday 19th November
After the events of last year’s blockbuster Part 1, a lot is riding on the expectations of the Hunger Games saga-ending Mockingjay Part 2, finally concluding the epic story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her quest to take down evil Panem overlord, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Promising a much darker and war-torn edition of the YA world built so exceptionally by Suzanne Collins, all eyes are on the Capitol as the final push for supremacy unfolds in an epic blockbuster encounter.
Katniss’ final battle with Snow is upon us, and there are plenty of additional factors in her life that make this the ultimate struggle for the woman dubbed the ‘Mockingjay’. After an encounter with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) that saw her shocked and injured, Katniss is still attempting to come to terms with the drastic change in his frame of mind at the hands of her enemy. Anger-driven and completely out of character, Peeta is as much a threat as those followers of Snow, while Gale remains faithful to his lifelong friend, clearly longing for the love she clearly holds for his rival.
Nevertheless, the revolution continues under the guidance of Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and head gameskeeper Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a final surge towards Snow’s palace is planned. The only problem is that the Capitol is riddled with traps set to destroy anyone who dares attempt to oppose the current lawmaker. While the annual Hunger Games may appear a thing of the past, Katniss and her crew, including Finnick (Sam Claflin), Boggs (Mahershala Ali) and Cressida (Natalie Dormer), must navigate a whole new arena filled with pods primed for killing. Can they make it to take down President Snow or will this be one war they simply cannot win?
Francis Lawrence has certainly become accomplished when it boils down to bringing the pages of Suzanne Collins’ series to the big screen, and his final foray into the war-torn realms of Panem certainly shifts things tonally in the way in which we all expect. Forgotten are the colourful garments of Hunger Games gone past, the celebratory parades and the quirky interviews; this is war at its bleakest and most affecting.
In shifting its tone, Mockingjay also endeavours to bring about a whole new level of drama and emotion, with some key interactions between the core trio of the story sharing some of the more pivotal moments in the film. This, in turn, brings yet more impressive performance from Lawrence and Hutcherson especially as their relations are strained and tested to the brink of shattering.
Lawrence and Hutcherson perfectly toy with the bond between their characters, but an extra weight of brilliance is added by the authoritarians in Julianne Moore and the sadly departed Philip Seymour Hoffman. Mockingjay is certainly an emotional encounter, only heightened by the appearance of the late Hoffmann and a subtle goodbye to him within the narrative.
While drama and emotion certainly dominate, it must be said that Lawrence’s movie also looks to push the certification boundaries with some incredibly executed tension and action set pieces. With the Districts of Panem rigged with dangers, there are plentiful scenes of peril and enthralling action, and this helps to break up proceedings tenfold. One particular underground scene stands out as the pinnacle moment of the film, where we find ourselves victims of the claustrophobic tunnels, inducing pounding hearts and he biting of nails. It plays out like a scene from Aliens and cranks up the tension by the second – truly remarkable and dark as the 12a certificate could be stretched.
For all its characteristics that make it a cut above its predecessor, it certainly pays to know that Part 2 is, at times, a bit of a slog. Hitting over the two-hour mark, there are moments in the film where you may question the usage of time; one notable decision is the minimal use of the brilliant Jena Malone as Johanna. She steals the few scenes in which she is present and it is a real shame we don’t get more of her striking presence along the way.
That said, Mockingjay Part 2 is a fitting end to a global phenomenon that has been embraced by millions. Admittedly it doesn’t quite manage to surpass the earlier series entries, but weighted with a whole new level of emotion and dramatic connectivity it poses a whole new beast for its conclusion. Superb set pieces, striking tension and great characters mean that this is a solid departure for Katniss and her fight for survival.