Movie Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One’

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) survived the arena — twice — and inspired all of Panem with her bravery, daring and devotion. Now, having played a part in a plan she knew nothing of, she finds that her actions have affected more than she could have imagined.

After firing the arrow at the arena’s force field and enabling the escape from the Quarter Quell and the Capitol, Katniss’ world has fallen apart. District 12 is gone. She survived the arena and made it out — but she is one of only a few who did. She has been played and used by those she trusts and the game is just beginning.

Panem has been on the verge of rebellion since she used a handful of berries to defy the Capitol, and her latest spark-filled defiance has brought the simmer to a boil. Playing nice for President Snow is no longer an option, and the girl on fire has to decide where she will stand when shots are fired.

As Katniss struggles to find and accept her role in the war sweeping through the districts, she also has to deal with the fallout of her Quarter Quell decisions. No longer the Capitol’s darling or district 12’s huntress, she must to choose to either sit on the sidelines or embrace the Mockingjay, as well as everything that comes with it.

Those who have read the books know that much of this last installment is dialogue-based and serves primarily to set the stage for the finale. Because “Mockingjay” was split into two movies, this first part is left with much of the set-up. Yet, surprisingly, this does not leave viewers with a slow, actionless movie that exists only to prepare for the final piece.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One” is a highly emotional movie. Viewers ride Katniss’ emotional rollercoaster as she grapples with the current developments, as well as the lingering trauma from her experiences in the Hunger Games. No character is spared pain, excluding, perhaps, President Snow, and “Mockingjay, Part One” is not a movie that resolves this pain.

Battles, negotiations and covert missions turn some of these emotions into anger and fearful anticipation, feelings never far when viewing Snow’s mistreatment of the districts and former Victors. Haymitch’s dry wit and humorous interactions with everyone he meets, coupled with Katniss’ bluntness, relieve the intensity and remind viewers that these two have faced the impossible before and are stubborn enough to do it again.

The cast only adds to the experience, seamlessly drawing viewers into the story. The performances by Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth (Gale) and Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) are especially powerful, invoking strong responses to their trauma and pain.

James Newton Howard’s soundtrack provides a riveting backdrop to the movie, but the musical highlight is Lawrence’s haunting vocalization of “The Hanging Tree,” a beautiful song that can be found at this link:

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One” is not a happy movie, but it is a thrilling experience. Despite the amount of set-up, the movie moves quickly and seems much shorter than its two-hour length.

As for the ending, well, let’s just say that for those who haven’t read the books, it will be a very long year.

Emily Finlay is a senior journalism major and campus news editor for Cedars. She loves writing, reading, making obscure references in normal conversation and every type of geekery.

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