Come on, we’re nearly there. One last heave.
It’s been a long, hard slog for Jennifer Lawrence’s renegade warrior Katniss Everdeen. And with Hollywood electing to turn Suzanne Collins’ best-selling Hunger Games trilogy into a quartet of films, the struggle to liberate dystopian future state Panem has begun to feel something of a slog for the viewer, too.
But just as rebel figurehead Katniss has sustained the revolution against Panem’s ruthless President Snow through its many reverses, so does Lawrence’s steely magnetism hold together this final instalment: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.
It is a particularly dour kind of charisma, however, that she’s required to convey as the rebels advance on the decadent Capitol. Katniss is supposed to be behind the front line, shooting morale-boosting propaganda footage with a handpicked unit including old friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), fellow games victor Finnick (Sam Claflin) and the traumatised Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), victim of brainwashing while a captive in the Capitol.
Instead, she turns the mission into an unsanctioned quest to assassinate President Snow, spurring the team to overcome a series of hazardous traps and ordeals as they draw closer to their goal.
Their progress towards the heart of the Capitol is, admittedly, something of a trudge, but it does include a breathless, adrenaline surging chase through sewers and tunnels that proves one of the most exciting sequences in the series.
Elsewhere, there aren’t many opportunities for the saga’s most colourful supporting characters, such as Woody Harrelson’s boozy dandy Haymitch Abernathy, Elizabeth Banks’s vain fashionista Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci’s flamboyant talkshow host Caesar Flickerman or, sadly, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sly strategist Plutarch Huckerbee.
Another disappointment, for some, will be the less than spellbinding resolution of the story’s on-going romantic triangle – the answer to the question: will Katniss choose hunky huntsman Gale or baker’s son Peeta?
To be honest, the love intrigue has never been especially engaging, which may be why the Hunger Games films haven’t inspired Twilight levels of frenzy. Far more interesting, however, is the way the series has continued to tap into current political anxieties – from the rage of the downtrodden against the one percent to the manipulative power of propaganda, and, above all, the moral and physical cost of standing up to evil.
And what ultimately makes the saga a triumph is how Lawrence’s magnificent heroine, anguished yet resilient, has been able to embody these tensions and conflicts while remaining to the end a beacon of integrity and hope.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 137 mins. Director Francis Lawrence
A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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