Se­ri­ous work as the Games con­clude

The Church of England - - REVIEWS -

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.

Steve Parish

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