The Districts, under District 13 leader Alma Coin (Moore), prepare for one final assault on the Capitol and President Snow (Sutherland). Katniss (Lawrence) purely wants revenge on Snow for the brainwashing of her friend Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who has just tried to kill her.
This final Hunger Games film is so relentlessly solemn that it will occasionally make you long for the merry japes of Sicario. But the seriousness of purpose in this astonishingly tense war movie is understandable. Picking up where Mockingjay — Part 1 finished, the stakes could not be higher, nor our heroine’s trauma more profound.
Of course, post-traumatic stress is pretty much the point. While the society of Panem examines how governments use fear to control us, the character stories are all about the damage caused by violence — both given and received. The ever-victorious Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is just as broken as the brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or the twisted President Snow (Donald Sutherland). At times this film suggests that, even should she survive, there won’t be much left of her.
Still, the emotional weight doesn’t detract from a pulse-pounding journey. Director Francis Lawrence dreams up stunning action beats as Katniss and her squad pick their way through the ruined Capitol, avoiding the spectacular booby traps dreamt up by clearly demented Gamemakers. Over and under looming fascist architecture, stripped of all colour except grey, there are chase scenes straight out of horror and action that recalls Star Wars or The Terminator rather than the earlier Games films. Katniss aims to assassinate Snow and end the war — but of course, her plan doesn’t go to plan.
The ever-victorious Katniss is just as broken as the brainwashed Peeta.
Jennifer Lawrence is as tough as nails here, with steely eyes but cast-iron skin that threatens to shatter under just one more blow. She’s not always helped by the script; one tragedy is brushed aside when it should be transformative, and the love triangle falls flat.
Perhaps with so much going on, not every moment could sing. Better are Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final scenes ever, doing more with a tiny grin than most actors do with their entire careers, and a supporting cast of surpassing quality. It’s not perfect but by the end (or endings — Return Of The King-style, there are several), fans will be satisfied that Lawrence and Lawrence have done Katniss proud.
If anything, this is too faithful to the book, sometimes getting bogged down in detail as Katniss struggles to her goal. But its epic sweep, grand designs and unyielding central performance make this a compelling finale.