Friday, 22 November 2013

REVIEW - THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE


Lionsgate are onto a real winner with this franchise, at a level whereby not even Uwe Boll could make a bad film out of Suzanne Collins' books. Both stylistically and thematically, Catching Fire is a very close relative of its predecessor, The Hunger Games, and if this is now formula, it's a formula that seems to have longevity. And for all that Francis Lawrence's film gets a little wrong, it gets a lot right in return. Its middle-chapter narrative shapes the film into a steady rhythm of unease, a constant tension underlying the first hour, low on incident but high on drama. It's defiantly uncommercial, though the immense appeal of this entire enterprise and also of the strong, sturdy filmmaking ought to satisfy general audiences. As it shifts gear, suddenly, into replicating the violent survival story that we're expecting, Lawrence maintains an intimacy with the characters and the screenplay maintains its focus on their thoughts rather than their actions, keeping the pace and tone on a steady simmer, instead of allowing it to balloon into the kind of blockbuster epic it so resolutely refuses to be. It only falters when such elements seep through, and threaten to rob Catching Fire of its steely non-conformist timbre. I cannot articulate what a joy it is to see Amanda Plummer, Lynn Cohen and Donald Sutherland in a film like this, and I'd almost wish the film was about their roles were it not for Jennifer Lawrence. She communicates a wealth of emotion via facial expressions and body language that is as direct and compelling as the sharpest line of dialogue. You only notice how little she seems to have actually done in expressing so much after she has accomplished it. The film would have greater impact if it were as concerned with her specific perspective as she is, though that little bit of distance makes it even easier to appreciate the subtle intensity of her work. Lawrence is an actor of unique ability among her contemporaries in Hollywood, as evidenced by this marvellous performance. I eagerly await the next installment of Katniss' story.