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domingo, 8 de novembro de 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 review: 'scorchingly tense'

Jennifer Lawrence and Philip Seymour Hoffman - in his last film - end the Hunger Games series with an electrifying, high-stakes final showdown
It would have seemed unlikely, five years ago, that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final screen role would come in the fourth instalment of a young adult science-fiction serial. But there’s something about Hoffman and The Hunger Games that fit.
The late actor appears at the front and centre of this scorchingly tense and stylish final chapter, as the Machiavellian powerbroker Plutarch Heavensbee, who in the last film became the de facto handler of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the reluctant but galvanising figurehead of the rebellion against President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
In the fashion-forward world of Panem, Plutarch has always stood out. Here, he starts the film in a black casual shirt and round-necked olive tee, as if he’s just arrived on set from an off-Broadway rehearsal: you can sense the aura of scuffed white trainers emanating from just out of shot.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee
But as always, the glamour of Hoffman’s performance comes in his looks and line-readings. “It’s so frustrating when she goes rogue,” he says of Katniss, when she slips out of the rebels’ base to make her way back towards the frontline of the struggle – but he electrifies the line with a smile, heightening the intrigue, drawing us in closer, and making us question what we thought we knew.
That, ever since its initial instalment in 2012, has been The Hunger Games’ M.O.: bright, politically conscious storytelling that’s unafraid to look its young target audience straight in the eye, performed by a brilliant, unobvious cast. In addition to Hoffman and Sutherland,Mockingjay – Part 2 groans with the collective talents of Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, and of course Lawrence herself, whose own budding stardom came into bloom over the course of the franchise.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss EverdeenCredit: Murray Close
After the subterranean sluggishness of the last film, too thinly spun out from the first third of Suzanne Collins’s final book, Mockingjay – Part 2 returns the series to its characteristic high gear.
Katniss is leading the rebels’ final push towards Snow’s stronghold. The rebel President Coin (Moore) is confident. The Capitol is on the back foot. Yet Katniss still finds herself nagged by doubt: in the heat of war, the side she’s fighting for no longer seems that different from the tyranny she always hoped to overthrow.

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The Hunger Games’ eschewal of its genre’s code of conduct has always been one of the series’ greatest strengths. Its heroine is no Chosen One, destined to save the world – instead, she’s constantly fighting her fate, first by volunteering in place of her sister for the gladiatorial Battle Royale that set the series in motion, and ever since by defying the rebellion’s attempts to shape her into some kind of unifying icon.

Nevertheless, Katniss plays along, in the hope that it will bring her close enough to the leonine Snow to assassinate him. She and her squad creep through the Capitol’s futuro-brutalist streetscape, evading booby-trapped “pods”, which variously unleash fire, bullets and flash-floods of oil, and the vampirically monstrous mutts, who prowl the city’s network of very Tarkovskian waterlogged tunnels.

The scale and stakes of the mission are both pricklingly palpable, and bit-players all add their own herbal tang to the infusion (I loved Natalie Dormer’s pugnacious director of “propos” – the short propaganda films the rebels use to gee up support). The final confrontation between Katniss and Snow, capped by a very particular look Sutherland shoots Lawrence at a crucial juncture, is worth the admission fee alone.

It’s sad to see this deservedly successful franchise reach the end of its run: but here’s hoping its dissident spirit will survive in young-adult blockbusters to come.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is released on November 19
 

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