The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Check out The Hunger Games: Catching Fire film review with Howard Groves.

Cert: 12A

Runtime: 146 mins

Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Sam Clafin

Rating: **** 

I missed the first film at the cinema, dismissing it as something I would not enjoy, but having caught up with it recently on Sky, I found it had more to offer than I thought, with a strong performance by Jennifer Lawerence and I could understand why it had received such favourable feedback. I have not read the Suzanne Collins novels upon which this film franchise is based and maybe sometimes it is better that way.

So having just been along to the Vue in Watford, where for the first time ever, I actually had someone who served me that engaged in a conversation about films and seemed to enjoy being there, I was informed that this is getting sold out most evenings and for the moment is the must see movie.

The first comment to make is if you have not seen The Hunger Games do not go and see this hoping that you may pick up what is going on, yes one might enjoy the action and drama but without the back story I think the viewer would be missing too much. Neither is it a film that is purely for teenagers, a view I probably held by not going along to watch the first film.  This is a tense thriller, where one gets enveloped with the injustice that seems to pervade almost every scene and with dark undertones about a future world that at times may seem uncomfortably close to our own.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins virtually where the previous film left off, with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) having survived The Hunger Games.  This is the event central to the film which involves young people being randomly chosen from the poorer Districts each year in a ritualistic and orchestrated fight to the death, watched by the wealthy in the Capitol, the thriving metropolis of Panem (although it always sounds like Pan Am whenever mentioned, which maybe makes things even more sinister).

Having both survived the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are obliged to go on a tour of victory visiting all of the Districts, playing out the role of would be lovers, a ploy that successful helped them  win the games but also the hearts of those watching. Katniss, however, is no ordinary young lady from District 12 and this leads her to increasingly become a focal point for a rebellion whose potency grows as the story develops and which both Katniss and Peeta witness being brutally suppressed on their journey.

A menacing President Snow (Donald Sutherland), acutely aware that the manner in which Katniss had defied the Games had begun to slowly unleash a movement that potentially threatens the stability of Panem, tries to control events and the masses, initially through pressure on Katniss and then by manipulating the 75th Hunger Games a “Quarter Quell” involving earlier winners.

All the of the previous characters supporting the “tributes”are involved once again as a shocked Katniss and Peeta find themselves embroiled in another fight for life, this time pitching themselves against the best of earlier Games as well as rampaging  Baboons and clouds of poisonous gas.

This second film gives us far more insight into the political skulduggery, brutality and inequality which so much of Panem is built upon. Uncomfortably some images and content may not be far removed from some aspects of our own world and the television coverage of the Hunger Games, fronted by the wonderful Stanley Tucci, might make one reflect on the current obsession with and extremes of reality TV.

Against this backcloth the whole cast deliver a film where most of the characters stir an emotion of some description and I found myself caring about who survived and who did not and almost willing some form of retribution against what has been an all controlling state power. At the centre of the cast is Jennifer Lawerence, rapidly becoming an actress that one would go and see no matter what film she was in. Having won an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, arguably made the first Hunger Games what it was, she gives an even better performance here as she has much more to go at in the developing plot and storyline, seemingly never delivering anything but a compelling scene.

There are plot twists, bluff and double bluff this time around and with no advanced knowledge of the novels I did not foresee where this film would finally end up, which is why it keeps you very much on the edge during its long running time.

The final book Mockingjay is split into two further films and I would definitely recommend this one, I hope the franchise has enough to sustain another two episodes but I’m quite sure if Jennifer Lawrence has anything to do with it they should be well worth watching.

Written by Howard Groves

(The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray)

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