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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 - DVD Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

A FILM that began with children being plucked to fight each other to the death in a televised arena by a totalitarian state determined to keep power by ruling by fear should never really have a completely happy ending. And so it proves with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, a sombre but thought-provoking finale to one of the most consistently gripping and intellectual franchises of recent years.

Francis Lawrence has created a genuinely downbeat conclusion to a series that has consistently treated its weighty subject matter seriously, thereby delivering a bittersweet conclusion that haunts more than it exhilarates.

Admittedly, not everything works about this instalment. The first half is slow, while elements of the final act also feel drawn out (much in the same way as the final Lord of the Rings movie). And some of the resolutions of the various story arcs feel overly contrived, with the winding up of the central love triangle concluded a little too easily and the surprise death of one major character awkwardly handled so as to negate its impact.

But in its favour, Mockingjay Part 2 refuses to pander too much to Hollywood convention (even throwing in plenty of surprises for those who haven’t read the books) and boasts another formidable leading performance from Jennifer Lawrence, who is put through a range of emotions in completing her awful journey.

And while some decried the seemingly commercial decision to split Suzanne Collins’ final novel into two films, parts 1 and 2 of Mockingjay actually function as two compelling companion pieces: Part 1 a taut dissection of war played out by propaganda (complete with televised executions that have plenty of resonance with current headlines), while Part 2 adopts a more combat-style approach, showing the wastefulness of war and its emotional cost to those fortunate enough to survive the fighting.

The story picks up in the immediate aftermath of Part 1 with Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) still nursing the wounds of her attack at the hands of former Hunger Games ally and lover turned brain-washed assassin Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and more determined than ever to carry the fight to The Capitol’s tyrannical leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland), so that she can be the one to kill him.

But her mission is far more complex than it seems. The path to the Capitol is littered with booby traps designed to kill her allies in ever more horrific ways, while doubts begin to surface about the suitability of rebel leader Coin (Julianne Moore) and her plans for Katniss should she succeed. And then there’s the emotional toll to factor in, as the full extent of her ordeal becomes clear to Katniss.

Lawrence conveys this latter part in exemplary fashion, retaining the fiery determination that helped Katniss to emerge as such a focal point for the revolution in the first place, yet counter-balancing that with moments of genuine poignancy as sorrow gives way to despair and anger. It’s a challenging role made to look effortlessly easy and one that resonates at every turn.

There’s equally notable support, too, from the likes of Hutcherson, as the tortured Peeta, and Sutherland, superbly evil to the end, even if other franchise regulars such as Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Jeffrey Wright feel either under-used or under-developed.

Lawrence, who has taken responsibility of this franchise since inheriting the second film from Gary Ross, also deserves credit for the way in which he refuses to water down any of the book’s content. This is strong stuff indeed with certain scenes likely to leave younger, more impressionable minds traumatised.

A superbly well choreographed underground encounter with demon-like assailants looks and feels like something out of a horror movie (of Aliens or The Descent variety), while some of the battle sequences include some shocking tactics that place women and children in the firing line.

And while the 12A certificate is undoubtedly pushed to its limit and arguably beyond, Lawrence’s camera never lingers nor opts for slow-mo excess; rather delivering the hits in an unflinching style that makes them harder hitting. It’s a tactic that allows more time for the emotional impact upon Katniss to be felt and explored, which translates to the audience just as effectively.

But therein lies perhaps the greatest achievement of this particular franchise: to explore relevant issues in an intelligent and articulate fashion while keeping the masses entertained. It’s a series that works on many levels that never trivialises or sensationalises the pain and suffering it continually depicts. And in doing so, it has also provided a platform for one of the most memorable female heroines of all-time to emerge, as portrayed by a formidable young actress [in Lawrence] at the top of her game.

In its own downbeat terms, The Hunger Games has to rate as a triumphant film franchise.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 137mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: March 21, 2016