Here we are, at the conclusion of what could very well be the greatest Y.A. movie franchise to hit screens. It’s the series that rightfully catapulted Jennifer Lawrence into the mainstream, but more than that, it managed to balance real-world issues and queries regarding morality during war within a blockbuster, easy-to-digest package. The series has gotten darker and delved into stronger themes with each outing, but none has brought it all home with the weight and urgency packed within The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.
Mockingjay – Part 1, while still a decent entry, suffered a little from drawing out the plot. Yet it serves this film well, working as an overly long but ultimately measured introduction to the dark, eventful final act that unfolds with its follow-up.
Picking up where Part 1 left off, we find Katniss recovering both physically and mentally from the transformation imposed on Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), but more so from her journey thus far. Katniss is at the end of her rope; President Snow has to pay, and she’s determined to make that happen.
There’s barely a glimmer of hope as we kick off proceedings, with Katniss moving from decision to decision with an air of exhaustion, resignation, and anger. Julianne Moore’s President Coin is determined to take down the capital, Peeta is struggling to find his humanity, and the world of Panem has become a war-stricken hell. There’s a dim outlook at every turn here, and Mockingjay – Part 2 surprises by not holding back any of its punches.
As Lawrence makes her way to the Capital, the body count piles up, the anger builds, the sadness occupying Katniss deepens. It’s grim stuff, yet the balance between drama and action is kept nicely. There are some truly great sequences as Katniss and her team try their best to avoid the countless booby-traps laid along the road to the capital. In particular, the expertly crafted, tense-as-hell sequence in which our leads meet the horrific Muttations in underground sewers.
Director Francis Lawrence, continuing on with the franchise after having helmed Catching Fire and Part 1, does his best work yet, keeping his eye on characterisation and amping up the energy at every possible opportunity. Having said that, the screenplay does push for certain pacing issues. The first quarter simply doesn’t have the momentum we crave after heading through Part 1, unnecessarily extending the period before they hit the road.
The action-packed and dramatically potent finale does its job: it’s exhausting. Determined not to tiptoe around the devastation of war and all that is lost and sacrificed with it, screenwriters Danny Strong and Peter Craig keep the stakes at their peak while delivering sobering narrative turns. By the film’s end, we feel Katniss’ journey and the toll it has taken. The bleakness does lessen, yet the horrors of war are not easily forgotten.
Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic here. She convinced as Katniss early on in the franchise, and her persona has transformed before our eyes in a way that only a strong performer could deliver. It’s a heavy performance to take on; petrified, devastated, and ultimately tired, Lawrence brings the weight of Katniss’ experiences and journey in every scene, culminating in a poignant and quietly devastating finale.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 closes the series in truly strong fashion. Slight pacing issues aside, what we have here is a dramatic and challenging blockbuster that pushes aside typical expectation of teen-aware drama and goes for depth, harsh truths, and emotional drive. You may not leave grinning from ear to ear, but Mockingjay – Part 2’s determination to not provide easy satisfaction makes it all the more satisfying.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10