Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

by Keith Hill

Rated M. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth. Directed by Francis Lawrence.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is surely one of the most anticipated part-one films since Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. Actually, was anyone keen for that?

The third of the four Hunger Games films, Mockingjay – Part 1 picks up not long after Catching Fire left off. After surviving the Third Quarter Quell, Katniss has been whisked away by other Games participants and Games Director, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles), who was revealed to be a leader for the rebels.

She awakes to find herself in a psychiatric hospital facility deep underground in District 13, who are revealed to have survived the Dark Days War, and is now run by President Coin (Julianne Moore). District 13 is readying themselves for war against the Capitol, and Katniss’ actions in the Third Quarter Quell, firing a charged arrow into the game’s force field, have made her the symbolic leader of the rebellion, with all the districts beginning to unite behind ‘The Mockingjay’.

Rather than maintaining the Games action of the previous films, the story instead revolves around the propaganda war between District 13 and the Capitol. Plutarch convinced Katniss to be the face of a series of propaganda videos beamed into the districts which show the violent response of the Capitol to the rebellion, including the complete destruction of District 12. In response, President Snow and the Capitol broadcast a series of interviews with an increasingly frail looking Peeta, who recites lines fed to him by his captors, urging the rebels to lay down arms and submit themselves again to the rule of the Capitol.

Mockingjay – Part 1 leaves out much of the overt violence and gore that characterised the previous two films, but in many ways this installment is the darkest yet. This film certainly takes on much more of a political tone than the previous two, and its focus on the propaganda war between District 13 and the Capitol, executions, torture, PTSD and war crimes all find parallels in what we see on the news every night. That’s what makes this movie much scarier than its predecessors.

The message of Mockingjay, and all the Hunger Games films, is really about whether one person’s moral choices have the ability to change the world. Despite her reluctance, Katniss becomes the figurehead for the rebellion, inspiring those around her to stand up against the oppressive powers of the Capitol in the hopes of bringing about a new, utopian future.

While it’s a noble sentiment, such radical and permanent change is beyond our ability to achieve. We need more than just an inspirational leader, who will unite us and bring to light abilities that are hidden within us. That kind of thinking assumes that the problem with the world is ‘out there’ and not in us. The Bible paints a completely different picture. The problem with the world is the sin which infuses our entire being. The problem with the world resides in each one of us, and we entirely lack the ability to do anything about it.

Thankfully, the Bible’s answer is more than just an inspirational leader, or a figurehead in our fight against sin. God’s plan was to unite all the world under Jesus (Ephesians 1:10), who died to redeem the world, starting with the sin in each one of us.

Even though sin, death and the devil (Eph 2:1-3) continue to wage war against God and his people, Jesus has guaranteed the outcome, by striking the decisive blow in his death on the cross. He gives a greater and more sure victory than Katniss is able even to hope for.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 provides a challenging and terrifying commentary on the violence we see daily in the news. The darkest installment yet, it raises the tension for a blockbuster showdown between District 13 and the Capitol in next year’s Part 2. Four out of five stars.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 will be released in cinemas worldwide later this week.

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