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‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’ Review: Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth & Josh Hutcherson

“Miss Everdeen, its the things we love most that destroy us.” -President Snow

In one of the most anticipated films of the year, Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as the girl on fire in the third installment of The Hunger Games series. The best-selling novels written by Suzanne Collins and the amazing films brought to life by Gary Ross (2012’s The Hunger Games) and Francis Lawrence (2013’s Catching Fire) have transcended the Young Adult novel world and film franchises.

Mockingjay Part 1 doesn’t miss a beat and picks up right where Catching Fire left off, when Gale (Liam Hemsworth) informs Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) that their home District 12 no longer exists. Katniss learns that District 12 was bombed under the orders of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) soon after she fired her arrow into the force field dome of the arena literally breaking the Games forever. Almost everyone from District 12 perished in the brutal attack, but the few who survived, including Katniss’ younger sister Prim (Willow Shields) and mother (Paula Malcomson) were taken in by District 13, the District that was assumed to be destroyed long ago.

District 13’s President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and ex-head game maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are looking to Katniss to be the face of the Rebellion to overthrow the Capitol, where President Snow controls the fate of Panem and its 11 Districts. After Katniss fired her arrow and destroyed the arena, she and fellow game victor Finnick (Sam Claflin) were saved by Plutarch and Katniss’ mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). But Katniss’ fiancé Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and other victor Johanna (Jena Malone) were captured from the game arena and taken back to the Capitol where they are being held against their will.

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With Katniss devastated by Peeta’s capture, but desperate to seek revenge on the Capitol and President Snow, she agrees to be the face of the Rebellion – The Mockingjay.

With director Francis Lawrence back on board after directing last year’s Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 is both a perfect follow up to the sequel and a set-up for the end of the series. F. Lawrence set the tone a bit darker in the sequel, but here the director moved towards a more somber and serious tone. The story itself is already dark, with only a little comic relief provided by the always-positive Effie (Elizabeth Banks), but Lawrence and cinematographer Jo Willems (Catching Fire) capture the claustrophobic nature of District 13 and the startling battles around the Districts very well. James Newton Howard’s beautiful and memorable score that he created for the first film and that was used throughout the sequel is revisited here with more melancholy and deeper tones used around the action sequences.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times over, Jennifer Lawrence is perfect as Katniss Everdeen, the teenager who volunteered to take her sister’s place in the games all the way to the young woman leading the Rebellion against the Capitol. It’s incredible to see how Lawrence has grown into the role and after recently re-watching both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (for the 30th time), it’s clear Lawrence understands this character from the inside out and this role will be marked as one of her best in her long career ahead. There is a particular scene towards the end of the movie that rivals the emotionally startling scene in Catching Fire where Peeta hits the force field with his machete and Katniss thinks he’s dead. You’ll know the scene when you see it and Lawrence is on point.

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We get to see a bit more of Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Katniss’ best friend from home and the sole reason why many were rescued from District 12. Though we get a little more Hemsworth screen time, there is much less Hutcherson in Mockingjay Part 1 and most of his scenes are of the video interviews with Capitol master-of-ceremonies Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) that are broadcast to Panem. Hemsworth and Hutcherson have always been able to compliment each other as the strong male counterparts to Lawrence and it’s interesting to see how different the chemistry is between each couple. It’s also important to mention that the films have never treated the Katniss-Peeta-Gale storyline as a sappy love triangle.

Mockingjay Part 1 welcomes new characters into the mix and the film is all the better for it. Natalie Dormer is exceptional as Cressida, the woman who left her Capitol lifestyle behind to join the Rebellion and direct the propaganda videos of Katniss. Mahershala Ali is a fun addition as Boggs, the head of security in District 13 and Julianne Moore is a stone cold fox as President Coin, the head honcho of District 13 who will stop at nothing to bring down Snow and the Capitol.

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Beautifully acted by the entire ensemble and expertly led by Jennifer Lawrence, Mockingjay Part 1 sets up the series end in the best way possible. The film ends in the ideal place that helps tie up some of the story, but mainly leaving us itching for more and wondering how it’s all going to end and what Katniss will do from here. Is it November 2015 yet??

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