The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

So are they still keeping tabs on their odds? Academy Award winners Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson and Donald Sutherland star in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2Cast of Characters:
Katniss Everdeen – Jennifer Lawrence
Peeta Mellark – Josh Hutcherson
Gale Hawthorne – Liam Hemsworth
Haymitch Abernathy – Woody Harrelson
Effie Trinket – Elizabeth Banks
President Alma Coin – Julianne Moore
Plutarch Heavensbee – Philip Seymour Hoffman
Beetee Latier – Jeffrey Wright
Finnick Odair – Sam Claflin
Johanna Mason – Jena Malone
Cressida – Natalie Dormer
Caesar Flickerman – Stanley Tucci
President Coriolanus Snow – Donald Sutherland

Director – Francis Lawrence
Screenplay – Peter Craig & Danny Strong
Based on the novel Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Producer – Nina Jacobson & Jon Kilik
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material

The nation of Panem is now in the midst of a full-scale war. Seeking to assassinate the sinister President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) joins forces with the District 13 unit – which includes Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) – to infiltrate the Capitol and liberate the nation’s citizens. Awaiting them, however, is one last “game” provided by Snow, and these series of mortal traps and moral choices will test Katniss more than she’s ever been tested before.

Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way ’cause everyone seems to be complaining about it. We know that this should’ve been one film. If it were me, I would’ve just bit the bullet and made one three-hour movie instead of two two-hour plus movies, but I’m not in charge, so that’s not what happened. That said, despite what issues that it had, and it being the weakest of the series, Mockingjay – Part 1 turned out to still be a solid entry for the franchise, concluding with a lagging second-act redeeming, thrilling cliffhanger that foreshadowed graver things to come for the people of Panem.

And graver things, they do come as Mockingjay – Part 2 is the easily the darkest entry of the Hunger Games film series. Returning director Francis Lawrence (who directed all but the first film) doesn’t dawdle here, picking up exactly where Part 1 left off and leading the viewers on a grim, violent and overall thrilling journey to Panem’s freedom.

As you’d expect with one book being split into two movies, and was the case with Part 1 (President Coin sure loved her rallying speeches), padding does occur in order to stretch out the film’s running time. On at least three occasions, Katniss wakes up in a recovery room, strapped to an IV, after being knocked out cold, and is told each and every time that she needs to sit back and relax, and that everything will be alright. We get it. As many concussions as she receives, Panem’s savior might as well have been named Jim McMahon.

Despite those unnecessary moments of padding, though, Mockingjay – Part 2 is still paced just a touch better than its predecessor, and once Katniss’s mission to assassinate Snow kicks into gear, Lawrence delivers the goods with an onslaught of exciting visuals (a combination of practical and CGI effects) and action sequences throughout the middle-act, ranging from the most fatal game of Minesweeper ever created to an Aliens/I Am Legend style mutant attack in the sewers underneath Panem. Even though there are a few times the murky setting below the Capitol makes it a little difficult to know who’s who, the energy and excitement provided during those primary setpieces are sure to leave viewers on the edge of their seats.

With so many A-list appearances popping up throughout the film, some big names are reduced to essentially a franchise “swan song”, with a few exceptions such as Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore who turn in strong work. Both Natalie Dormer and Jena Malone get a few more moments to shine than they have before in the previous films. The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman isn’t onscreen that much, but it’s a joy to see him one last time onscreen, even if his untimely death during the production of Part 2 makes it bittersweet. At times, Hoffman doesn’t even need to say a single word; sometimes the look he displays is enough to remind us of the wonderful talent he truly was.

As he’s done since the first film, the perfectly cast Donald Sutherland steals each scene he gets with slithery panache as President Snow. One particular highlight of not just his, but the entire film has him giving a celebratory toast to his cabinet that turns dark at the snap of a finger. You can tell Sutherland’s having a ball playing a character who delights in his evil ways.

Over the course of these four films, Jennifer Lawrence has come to own the role of Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant, sometimes unlikable, but ultimately empathetic heroine of the resistance. Even though the third-act has spots that feel rushed, and the final scene, while fine, succeeds a scene that closes with a line that would’ve made a perfect series capper, it’s during those final moments where Katniss feels most human and Lawrence shows us that she’s the real deal when it comes to the best young actresses of today.

Like its predecessor, Mockingjay – Part 2 lags a big with a couple repetitive moments, and its game of “Guess who?” during some of the heavier action-packed scenes might frustrate some viewers. Still, aside from a bit more of a judicious use of the cutting room floor, Mockingjay – Part 2 delivers enough edge of your seat action and star-studded performances, chief among them a strong Jennifer Lawrence, to bring the popular post-apocalyptic trilogy to an imperfect but nevertheless satisfying end.

I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 a B+ (★★★).

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