The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, dir. Francis Lawrence, scr. Danny Strong, Peter Craig, based on Mockingly by Suzanne Collins, st. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchinson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour-Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
How fitting that Jennifer Lawrence, still very much in the eye of the storm concerning ever-fracturing privacy in the media, commands a film that primarily concerns itself with branding, propaganda, and the dissemination of (mis)information between warring factions. The Hunger Games: Mockingly - Part 1 thankfully diverges from the repeated structure of the first two films, and instead of the breathless, yet tiring spectacle of the Capitol finding ever ingenious ways to murder self-destructive battle-weary kids, we have here a volley of exchanges between the leaders of the rebellion based in District 13, and the Capitol dictator President Snow. Even though both sides can (and do) utilise their arsenal of bombs and bullets, the war is being fought primarily over the airwaves rather than battlefields. Electioneering has never been about policy or intention, but about public image; who's looking too smug or too weak, who accidentally said what and to whom. The public seize upon and judge every look, every word, every misguided tweet. And on the face of it, Mockingjay pits two sizeably matched opponents against each other. In one corner we have Hunger Games emcee Caesar Flickerman (Tucci) interviewing a violently deconstructed and reassembled Peeta Mellark who's been coerced into denouncing the uprising, and in the other, a fatigued and disillusioned Katniss Everdeen who's being groomed and re-marketed by Heavensbee and President Coin (Seymour-Hoffman and Moore) as an enduring symbol of defiance. Lawrence is much more restrained this time around, a picture of drained discontentment. Similarly, Moore is on uber-subtle mode as well, ostensibly fighting the good fight against oppression, but potentially proving as suspiciously manipulative as her aggressors. Of note too is the decidedly darker tone this third instalment takes on. Katniss' journey back to her District 12 home reveals the true extent of President Snow's capacity for the horrific violence inflicted upon his own citizens. It's a grizzly but potent reminder of just what's at stake in the fictional Panem, but there are undoubtedly silent allusions to war-torn lands that exist outside the cinema that reinforce the idea of humanity's necessary and fundamental non-negotiables.