The fire is catching.
If there is one word I would use to describe Mockingjay – Part 1, it would be intense. Not only do we get more action and inner turmoil, we see a world ripped apart from within. This is not your average teenage movie, nor does it follow the same formula as the previous two Hunger Games films.
There is violence and death aplenty, both seen and unseen. President Snow (Donald Sutherland), while addressing the people of Panem, has a handful of rebellious people publicly executed in each district. As he’s waxing on about community and the importance of peace, we see the people of Panem being pushed and corralled into town squares to listen to Snow’s speech and to witness the murders of their friends and allies.
While it is true that there is not a lot of action for Katniss in this film, I don’t think that detracts from it overall. We are allowed a glimpse into her life after the games and it’s not a good life. She is clearly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder: she can’t sleep, she has nightmares, and she doesn’t trust anyone, least of all District 13’s leader President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). The biggest bit of action she participates in is in District 8, after the Capitol bombed it. Katniss and her team visit the wounded, to give them hope that the Mockingjay is there, and when President Snow finds out (from a conveniently untouched camera filming the whole thing), the audience witnesses some of the most atrocious things human beings can do to each other.
Snow orders bombs to be dropped on a hospital full of wounded and dying people only hours after they were first attacked. When Katniss finds out that this is happening, she wastes no time in running to their aide. She and Gale run through the rubble to a rooftop where they find a clear shot of the bombers, and take aim. As we all know from the trailers, Katniss knocks an explosive arrow (one of three types that Beetee, played by Jeffrey Wright, made for her) and successfully strikes down both planes as they’re lining up for their third round of bombing the hospital.
As the fire burns and Katniss rushes forward, wanting to save the people trapped in the hospital, we see the fire return in her eyes. Peeta has been gone a long time, but this sets ablaze Katniss’s will to live and bring down the Capitol. Katniss turns toward the cameras and exclaims, “The fire is catching. If we burn, you burn with us!” It’s these lines that really bring home the truth of the entire film: if the districts are going down, the entire country of Panem is, too.
Cressida, Castor, and Pollux make an appearance, which I was excited about. Who doesn’t love Natalie Dormer? The scenes with them were mixed: some had action and some were simply scenes where we learned more about Katniss and the people surrounding her. There were some very beautifully tender moments after the team visits District 12 to show them what they’ve done to it. Katniss sings the Hanging Tree song to Pollux, and the chorus of mockingjays in the background brings the haunting melody to life.
The end of the film was some of the most intense yet, including the rescue mission to the Capitol. While the power is down across the city, due to some very brave souls who destroy the hydroelectric dam that supplies power to most of Panem, Gale and Boggs lead a team of soldiers to rescue the captured victors Peeta, Johanna, and Annie from President Snow’s grip. If you’ve read the book, you know what happens. But since it’s the climax of the film, I’m not going to spoil it here. Let me just say that the entire scene, which lasted probably 20 minutes at least, was riveted and tense and definitely had me on the edge of my seat. Even though I’ve read the book, there’s still that chance that the writers will change something, and I didn’t know what to expect.
Speaking of Peeta, his transformation throughout the film is incredible. He goes from the pretty baker’s boy to a gaunt, stick-thin creature which dark eyes and almost no life left in him. We see this change when he and Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) have live televised conversations. We also see how Katniss is affected by Peeta’s change, and Jennifer Lawrence does a wonderful job of stabbing us in the heart whenever she whispers or cries out for Peeta. Though she’s still uncertain of her feelings for him or Gale, it’s clear that she cares for him as a person and wants to save him, no matter the cost to herself or others.
The film has its share of slow points, especially at the beginning. Some of the dialogue is silly, but that’s to be expected from the likes of Tucci and Elizabeth Banks, both of whom reprise their roles beautifully. Banks is an especially stripped down and tender Effie Trinket, who shares some very witty and perhaps sexual banter with a sober-by-necessity Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). Philip Seymour Hoffman leaves the world with a soft-spoken but devoted Plutarch Heavensbee. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 will leave you breathless as it builds the story arc that will hopefully culminate in Mockingjay – Part 2.
If we burn, you burn with us.