“Mockingjay Part One” picks up where we left off. Catniss is aboard the rebel ship after the last quarter quell, her hands bound to a bed, due to nightmares which cause her to thrash in her sleep. She knows that Peeta has been captured, and that the Capitol and President Snow are continuing their reign of terror, but she has no idea how or what the damage has been. Add into this that she has no idea the state of the other victors, and you understand how overwhelmed, sad and beaten she feels.
When the revolutionaries ask her to be their ‘Mockingjay’ she is uncertain. The leader of this new movement, President Coin, Julianne Moore, is working with Plutarch, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Beetee, Jeffrey Wright. One wonders though if the motives of Coin are in accord with Plutarch and Beetee. Further, if not, what are they? This new world of the revolutionaries, is a muted one in which the color which permeates everything is grey. All of the people in this world are clothed in grey and it seems as if the distinctions which make humans unique have all but been obliterated.
The few characters which have retained individuality, such as Effie, Elizabeth Banks, and Haymitch, Woody Harrelson, grumble about the constraints, yet accept it, in the name of gaining liberty from the Capitol. Effie complains about not having her wigs, and a lack of color, and Haymitch disdains the rule of prohibition. These few moments give us some much needed humor, within a storyline that could very easily lapse pathos. This contrasts nicely with the very real angst that Catniss feels at not only what awaits her, but the damage that has been done already.
When Catniss agrees to be the Mockingjay for their cause they attempt to use her for props (propaganda) set against a staid backdrop in which she cannot see the images of destruction. However, her responses to this are half-hearted so they amp up the volume by actually sending her to district twelve to see the remains which the Capitol wrought on her people. Her reaction to this is palpable and believable. She walks over a skull not realizing what it is, and then gasps not just at what she has done but at the cruel senselessness of it all.
Her one mission aside from defeating the Capitol and President Snow is to rescue Peeta and the other victors. Peeta has been appearing on Capitol props looking teary eyed and gaunt, pleading with Catniss to stop and for others to put down their arms and live in peace. It is clear he is being manipulated in an emotional game of pitting one against the other. How this will all end we do not know.
The strengths of this film are many. The cinematography is beautiful, while the special effects are never cheap. Jennifer Lawrence hits all the right notes as Catniss. We believe her not just because of the other actors around her but due to that ethereal quality which lies beneath the surface in every line and facial expression. She is there in the moment and so are we. When she says, “If we burn you will burn with us.” There is an earthy pain in her words which is colored in all the loss and heartache she has seen and known.
Each actor within this series is superb. Sadly, the Mockingjay series is the last piece of film that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was in. That being said, it was a more than apropos that the film was dedicated to him.
Hoffman, along with Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth give their all in this tour de force performance.
If there is a fault with this film it is that at one crucial point they switch from steady cam to shaky cam. This was unnecessary and worse, impacted an already murky scene, making it even more difficult to tease out what was happening. While this may have been done in an effort to bring the audience further into the story, the result is that is to only further distances the viewer from the action.
The good news is that the shaky cam does not last long, and so that one bit can be easily forgotten in the scheme of things. What “Mockingjay Part One” achieves on the whole is a well-developed and executed story, that in the end leaves the audience waiting breathlessly for more.