YOUTH IN REVOLT: Lawrence (as Katniss), right, and Hemsworth (Gale) embark on a quest to liberate their people.
Though Mockingjay Part 1, the latest instalment in the blockbuster Hunger Games trilogy yields fair to reasonable results — as it reintroduces us to the stark realities of Pan Am's downtrodden civilians, desperate for liberation from the tyrannical rule of the Capitol — the movie is wonderfully bolstered by a sturdy cast of accomplished actors.
Thankfully, these sharp and appealing performances go a long way in making the film a worthwhile watch, particularly when the action and the dialogue grow tedious. Julianne More (courting Oscar buzz for Still Alice) brings iron-willed resolve to the role of Alma Coin, Pan Am's lady President who faces a mountain of expectation — to secure for the people a champion who will lead their full-throttle rebellion against the Capitol.
And that's where ballsy heroine Katniss Everdeen comes in, with the ever-terrific Jennifer Lawrence reprising this central role that made fans fall under the spell of the series in the first place. Enraged by the brutal slaying of scores of innocents and the continued oppression of her people, the girl on fire doesn't hesitate to accept the challenge of leading the charge against President Snow (Donald Sutherland, all white hair and steely stupor).
But for everything there's a price, and Katniss' bond with childhood friend Peeta Malark (Josh Hutcherson) is put to the ultimate test. That said, next year's Part 2 simply cannot be missed.
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman (who plays Plutarch), Elizabeth Banks (Effie), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), Liam Hemsworth (Gale) and Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman) all reprise their original parts with much elan, easily affording the Francis Lawrence-directed film the most illustrious ensemble cast of the season. Tyrone's Verdict: B