Serious work as the Games conclude
The Hunger Games series finishes with the fourth part of the trilogy (the last book being squeezed out to two films). Mockingjay Part 2 (dir. Francis Lawrence, cert. 12A) doesn’t feel like an afterthought, but brings some of the visual excitement and sense of danger of the original film into the scenario of a final battle as the rebels close in on the Capitol.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) uses up more of her nine lives, and takes on a personal mission to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland, marvellous in a role that draws even more on his psychopath arsonist in Backdraft). Would-be president Coin (Julianne Moore) has other plans for Katniss, as part of a crack team of soldiers whose task will be to follow the rebel advance - making promo videos for the cause.
Booby traps in the city, notably a spectacular flood of black gloop, puts them at grave risk, as do the “mutts” (mutated humans looking a bit like the beast from Pan’s Labyrinth but without an eye in its hand), chasing them through sewers – now that would have sorted Harry Lime. Katniss’s partner in the Games, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), has been “conditioned” by the Capitol so cannot be trusted – yet he can still be loved, and Katniss may have to choose between him and Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
The dialogue can be a bit twee – “May your aim be true as your heart is pure” – but there’s an underlying attempt by author and adapter Suzanne Collins to give serious thought to rebellion and to what follows toppling of a tyrant. There’s an unlooked-for modern parallel in the idea of hiding among refugees, and an unsurprising twist as Snow, bound to a post as in a Roman arena, awaits execution.
Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and (briefly) Stanley Tucci reprise their roles. Poignantly, the film starts with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as game-maker Plutarch and ends with Haymitch (Harrelson) reading a letter from Plutarch.
It’s a device to fulfil Hoffman’s final scene without a fake CGI “performance”, and only adds to the sense of satisfaction at his superb career. The words are intended to inspire hope in a youthoriented series that’s genuinely subversive, as young people face a world in which they are marginalised, oppressed even, by their elders.