Thursday Night Movie Club
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
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Release Date: 21 November 2014

Director: Francis Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
Liam Hemsworth
Woody Harrelson
Donald Sutherland
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Julianne Moore
Willow Shields
Sam Claflin
Elizabeth Banks
Mahershala Ali
Jena Malone
Jeffrey Wright
Paula Malcomson
Stanley Tucci
Katniss Everdeen
Peeta Mellark
Gale Hawthorne
Haymitch Abernathy
President Snow
Plutarch Heavensbee
President Alma Coin
Primrose Everdeen
Finnick Odair
Effie Trinket
Johanna Mason
Katniss' Mother
Caesar Flickerman
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 movie poster The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 movie poster The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 movie poster
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Life isn't getting any better for Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). District 12 has been utterly destroyed. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is held captive in The Capitol undergoing who knows what tortures. She finds herself among strangers in the hidden but still functional District 13.

Katniss is under extreme duress. Her psyche is in ruins after experiencing the horrors of consecutive Hunger Games pageants. She spends her days hiding among the pipes. Finnick Odair (Sam Clafin) is undergoing similar torments. His good friend Annie has also been captured in order to punish him. Neither Katniss or Finnick are really sure who they can trust.

Continuing the game of move and counter move, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) continue their plans of starting the revolution. Before they can enact their plans, they must first unite the ten remaining districts. They need a symbol of defiance. They need "The Mockingjay". They need Katniss. Can she rise to the cause? Can she become a leader? Can she even return to some form of humanity or is she mentally and physically broken?

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is a non-stop emotional roller coaster ride of despair, sadness, happiness, intrigue, double-crosses, triple-crosses, and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Donald Sutherland as President Snow is at his smooth, suave, sophisticated, subtly-evil best. His voice and demeanor depict calmness, caring and sympathy. His actual words are double-en tend res. There is little doubt why Snow rules supreme.

Jennifer Lawrence shines once again as Katniss. Early on, Lawrence shows why she is such a great actor. The plan is to film a Public Service Announcement to be broadcast throughout the Capitol and the districts. Standing on a soundstage, Katniss is supposed to rally the troops. Katniss acting is flat, unconvincing.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Haymitch Abernathy's (Woody Harrelson) idea is to film a documentary. Take Katniss to the ruins of District 12 and see what happens. Surprising everyone, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) gives a passionate, emotional telling of the day District 12 was destroyed. Looking upon the ruins, he begins by saying the day was like any other, until the government troops began quickly pulling out. Hawthorne knew the worst was coming. As hard as he tried, Hawthorne could not save everyone. The city is littered with the dismembered corpses. Liam Hemsworth is fantastic during this sequence. His quiet narration is a stark contrast to the devastation. The scene is shocking, terrifying, and brutally direct.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Next, Katniss is taken to see the survivors of the attack on District 12. These unfortunates are too injured, weak and feeble to be moved to a safer location. President Snow shows his compassion by targeting them for further suffering. After the hospital is destroyed, Katniss gives a passionate speech telling the other districts what Snow is capable of doing.

Lawrence shines in these two opposing scenes. In the first, Lawrence has to "act" bad on purpose because Katniss is not an actor. In Katniss' passionate speech, Lawrence comes off as if Katniss is ad-libbing her words rather than Lawrence acting out a scripted line from a screenplay. Katniss' anger, frustration and despair in dealing with Snow and the government is real, heart-felt and exactly what President Coin needs to rally the other districts in rebellion.

Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1What is really going on here? Does President Snow actually believe that destroying Katniss will crush the rebellion once and for all? Do President Coin and Plutarch Heavensbee care about Katniss' well-being or are they only interested in creating a "symbol of freedom". Are they really hoping Katniss, aka The Mockingjay, becomes a martyr for the cause. Is Katniss caught up in a giant chess match where she is merely a pawn to be used/sacrificed by both sides to gain a strategic advantage over their respective adversary?

Good questions. The answers are elusive.

Director Francis Lawrence has filmed some truly harrowing moments in this film. Once the Capital has discovered that District 13 is still functioning, they start a carpet-bombing campaign. Even though the inhabitants of District 13 are some 100 stories below ground, the effects of the bombing can be felt. Cracks appear in the concrete structures. Is this the last gasp of the rebellion? This must be how it felt to be inside a U-boat in WWII with nowhere to go and no escape.

Snow's attack on the wounded survivors of District 12 is sudden and down-right nasty. The population of District 12 is now zero. The pigs and wild dogs will have to find food somewhere else.

Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1The rebels attempt to rescue the captive tributes is fraught with enough electricity-charged suspense to light a city for a year. Little by little, the rescuers begin to wonder why this mission is going so smoothly. Is there plan that good or are they walking into a trap?

There are also plenty of scenes that make the characters (and the audience) think about what is really important. Just before the bombing when the inhabitants of District 13 are heading to the lowest level, Katniss notices her sister Primrose (Willow Shields) is missing. Prim is upstairs making a valiant attempt to rescue her pet cat. Katniss is furious. It is only a stupid cat! Primrose knows that all life is precious.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1The final sequence in the film is a true shocker. What should be a joyous celebration erupts into unbridled, venomous violence. Snow reveals he will stop at nothing to achieve peace in the republic and crush the rebellion. The kid gloves are off. If the rebellion is to be successful, they will have to become something far darker than President Snow can imagine.

Just how nasty Katniss becomes will be revealed in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Until then, enjoy this non-stop, edge-of-your-seat, suspense-filled roller coaster ride!

(NOTE: The film is titled Part 1 for a reason. The final resolution is too complex to pare down to a single film. Except, when all is said and done, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is a single film.)