Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Hunger Games (2012)

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you probably have some idea of the premise to The Hunger Games.  But just in case there are any of you with sub-lithic homes, here's the brief:

The nation of Panem consists of the Capitol, and twelve districts.  There were once thirteen districts, but one was annihilated when the districts rebelled against the Capitol.  Every year, the remaining districts are reminded of the failure of that rebellion when they are forced to provide two randomly-chosen youths - one male, one female - to participate in a televised death match known as The Hunger Games.

Katniss Everdeen lives in district 12, the poorest of the districts.  When her younger sister Prim is chosen for the games, Katniss volunteers in Prim's place.  She does so without any expectation of victory, but since she's the protagonist of the film, you can probably guess that she has a better chance than she realises.

This is a smartly put-together film.  It efficiently establishes the setting and Katniss's selection, then effectively builds up tension for the games themselves by showing the training given to the competitors: who are explicitly called "Tributes", so that the in-universe purpose of the games is not forgotten.  It also makes good use of the televised nature of the games to have commentator characters deliver some handy exposition.

Strong performances also aid the film.  Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in the lead role, while Woody Harrelson does a great job as former games winner Haymitch, who is detailed with the job of preparing Katniss for the competition.  Haymitch is an important character because he shows that even if you win the games, they mark you for life, and Harrelson owns the role.

This is a good, though often rather bleak, film.  If you prefer a more up beat and escapist tone to your entertainment, you should probably look elsewhere - that's why it only gets a qualified recommendation.  If you like the sort of thing this is, though, the execution here is excellent.

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