Film Review: The Hunger Games
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The highly-anticipated The Hunger Games, based on the best-selling book by Suzanne Collins is set to storm cinemas on Friday and certainly delivers excitement, suspense and emotion in one of the best sci-fi/action films of recent years.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future America, The Hunger Games sees the Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to offer up a teenage boy and girl as 'Tributes' to compete in the annual Hunger Games contest.
The Games are televised and each Tribute must fight the others until only one survivor remains. When the younger sister of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is drawn to compete, Katniss takes her place and must use all of her courage, skill and determination to survive.
Directed by Gary Ross, The Hunger Games is one of those rare Hollywood films which is a tense emotional experience: it perfectly balances enthralling action sequences with dramatic dialogue and delves in to, at times, genuinely disturbing issues.
Fantastic costumes – especially for the citizens of the Capitol – coupled with distinctive production design, create a world which is alien and yet worryingly recognisable.
The film's depth lies in its characters – all of whom are multi-dimensional and retain an identifiable human realism which makes their actions all the more unsettling and shocking when they are driven to unspeakable savagery to survive.
The performances from the cast are dynamic and engaging but the film is stolen by Jennifer Lawrence in the central role of Katniss. Her vigour and intensity on-screen was mesmerising and made the audience root for her from the very beginning. Lawrence's performance will no doubt delight fans of the novels but she admitted that she had her concerns about taking on such a well-loved role: “There's a lot of pressure when you're playing a character so many people are crazy about, but I felt I could rest easy because I was committed to do the very best I could”.
The Hunger Games places its characters in a world which is so extreme, so threatening and, in doing so, packs a punch on so many levels. The action set-pieces in the forest were enthralling and were so well put together that the predicaments of the characters looked so natural. As stunt co-ordinator Stahelski explained, Gary Ross “didn't want the action to feel choreographed so we tried to create a more spontaneous feeling of wild, emotional struggle.” They definitely pulled it off.
These sequences created the feeling that the outcome of the fights was a real matter of life and death. It's only a film, yes. But at times it sure didn't feel like one. A story about teenagers running around a forest, killing each other with, at times, sadistic pleasure was never going to be easy to film. The violence, however, is not overly graphic (the film received a 12A) and in a strange way, is made even more harrowing by the lack of CGI blood splatters. Being the first of a possible trilogy of films, the ending didn't have the powerful punch that it perhaps should have had but this is a minor point in what was otherwise a well-crafted narrative.
Katniss' tenacity and drive throughout the film creates a perfect character arc which, by the end, leaves no doubt as to Lawrence's acting ability. She is truly stunning. A strong supporting cast led by Josh Hutcherson and Donald Sutherland as the President of Panem and distinctive cinematography by Tom Stern, all created a world of the future which is both disturbing and breathtaking.
The Hunger Games is not your run-of-the-mill action/adventure blockbuster. Its strong and dynamic central character, bucking the trend of the hapless teenage heroine in need of a man to save her, together with its dramatic action and emotional core is a pleasure to watch. So stop writing that essay, close that laptop and witness the 74th Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in your favour...
The Hunger Games is released nationwide on 23rd March.