Mockingjay Part 1 is the first of two movies that cover the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. This movie is set almost entirely within District 13 and opens with Katniss recovering after being rescued from the arena in the Quarter Quell. Peeta, Annie and Johanna are now prisoners in the Capitol. The movie climaxes with Peeta's rescue from the Capitol and the discovery that he has been programmed as a weapon to kill Katniss.
This movie's strength is it's faithfulness to the novel, telling a good story without slipping into Hollywood's usual embellishments and tropes, likely because author Suzanne Collins was part of the process in adapting the novel to the big screen. The only difference between the first part of the novel and the movie adaptation is that it portrays Gale, Boggs and his team going into the Capitol to free Peeta and the other victors. The basic storyline of the struggle of the rebels to take down the inhumane regime of the Capitol never becomes bogged down or side-tracked.
Mockingjay Part 1 is a dark movie; the world is grey and smoking, we don't see much of the Capitol excesses and vibrant colours in this movie. Instead we see the massive destruction in District 12 and District 8. The only vibrant colour is the blood of the casualties. Within the confines of District 13, the people live underground in grey concrete bunkers and wear grey or blue coveralls. Even Effie Trinket, fugitive from the Capitol, is tampered down, her outrageous makeup gone, her clothing muted and dark. Tthe rebels are struggling to overcome the Capitol and Katniss is dealing with the psychological and emotional effects of participating in two Hunger Games and the capture of Peeta.
Jennifer Lawrence gives an outstanding performance that continues to remain true to the character of Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence brilliantly conveys the emotional fragility Katniss has, the result of the trauma she has endured in the Games. We also witness her inner struggle over Peeta and her attempt to understand how her relationship with Gale has changed. Enhancing her Lawrence's performance is an outstanding by a cadre of supporting actors
Gale, well played by Liam Hemsworth, continues to support her but begins to realize that he has likely lost her love and that she seems to only notice him when he is in pain. The Katniss he once knew no longer exists. Woody Harrelson returns as the now sober (and dull) Haymitch Abernathy who is still on the ball when it comes to outguessing the Capitol, Donald Sutherland continues as the cold calculating President Snow, Katniss's archenemy who loves to leave her white roses with their sickening scent, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Hensbee, President Coin's advisor. The movie is dedicated to Hoffman who committed suicide this year. Jeffrey Wright plays Beetee the technical wizard whose abilities help to turn the war in the rebel's favour.
There are many new characters in this movie among them, Cressida played by Natalie Dormer who is the director in charge of the propos, Messalla played by Evan Ross who is Cressida's assistant and friend, Castor and Pollux (Wes Chatham and Elden Henson) that later who is a Avox, and Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin. Both Dormer and Moore's performances stand out.
The depiction of Peeta's "hijacking" and madness is especially well done; it's the last scene in the film and very intense as Katniss witnesses the havoc President Snow has wreaked upon the man she is only just coming to realize she loves.
There are several differences in the movie compared to the novel. One is that Katniss does not demand from President Coin that she be allowed to assassinate President Snow, leading one to wonder how the ending of the second movie will play out.
Overall a very good movie adaptation of a popular young adult novel that will leave fans truly pining for the final installment next year.
Below is the trailer for Mockingjay: