The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I

WRITTEN BY: Peter Craig, Danny Strong
DIRECTED BY: Francis Lawrence
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin
RATING: 4 stars

Fans of the Hunger Games books (like me) will love this latest instalment in the film franchise. But as a fan, even I have to admit that splitting the final book into two films has been a mistake. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I has far too much padding and not nearly enough events happening. As a book, it was complete and thrilling. As the first part of a two-film story, it lacked some excitement. Nonetheless, the film does have a few good action sequences and further develops some characters and their relationships. It also allows smaller characters in the book, such as Elizabeth Banks' delightful Effie, to be more prominent in the film. No matter what any review says about this film, people will flock to the cinema to see it – and they should.

Part I opens with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) waking up in District 13 after literally shattering the hunger games in the previous film. Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), as well as the advice of her friends including Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick (Sam Claflin), Katniss is tasked with saving the districts from the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland) by being the face of the rebels' propaganda campaign. She must also fight to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who is being held prisoner in the Capitol.

Lawrence was fantastic and had several moments to show her acting chops. It was great to see Hemsworth in a more significant role this time, while Hutcherson took the back seat this time but was also solid. Claflin provided some sweet emotional moments, while Sutherland continued to intimidate as the antagonist. Banks was hilarious and Woody Harrelson also drew laughs immediately when he appeared on screen. Moore and Hoffman were both great too, adding some gravitas to the film – not that it needed it.

Suzanne Collins' novels are full of violence and politics, which is quite a lot to take in for young readers. The film does a great job of also capturing that essence. It is a shame that a financial decision detracts slightly from the impact of the final chapter, but The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I is certainly still worth your money.