In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives.
Directed by: Gary Ross
. Starring: Stanley Tucci
, Wes Bentley
, Jennifer Lawrence
, Willow Shields
, Liam Hemsworth
, Elizabeth Banks
, Sandra Ellis Lafferty
, Paula Malcomson
, Rhoda Griffis
, Sandino Moya-Smith
, Josh Hutcherson
, Raiko Bowman
, Dwayne Boyd
. Music by: James Newton Howard
Time and space is very well established within the first five minutes of the film. We are in Panem, a future version of North American which is divided into a series of districts (consisting of poor people put under oppressive rule -' the security force resembles the policemen in George Lucas' THX 1138) and a wealthy city known as The Capitol (which is in control over the districts). Each year, two young members of every district are chosen to fight to the death (on live television) in an arena until there is only one of them left. The reason? Is there any? They say this is some kind of a tribute in order to maintain peace in Panem. President Snow says that hope is the true reason behind the Hunger Games ("Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear."). I don't even think there is a reason.
Half of the film takes place in an arena filled with video cameras that made me think of The Truman Show and I was afraid of the fact that it might feel repetitive. However, this isn't the case here. Gary Ross (the man has already got four Oscar nominations), does a good job and I found his shaky camera technique perfect for the kind of action that takes place in the movie. Ross manages to make the film look brutal and violent even though its PG-13 rating. Seeing a young man holding a bloodied brick in his hand while another contender is lying dead at his feet is enough to make you think that you have actually seen a bloodbath.
Another strong element is the wonderful cast consisting of some of the best actors in Hollywood today. Donald Sutherland and Wes Bentley make perfect use of their limited on-screen time sharing some incredible scenes while Stanley Tucci gives a charming and funny performance as talk show host Caesar Flickerman (His fellow colleague is Claudius Templesmith -' played by an even funnier Toby Jones).
Elizabeth Banks' Effie Trinket was something I was initially skeptical about because the trailer made her look like an annoying villain-like megalomaniac. However, Effie is actually a unique presence in the movie, a symbol of Panem's aristocracy and although I felt like Banks' performance was a little over the top, there are some really funny moments between her and former Hunger Games winner Haymitch Abernathy (another great performance from Hollywood's flexible friend, the always phenomenal Woody Harrelson).
Effie's role throughout the movie is not as big as I thought I would be but her presence is extremely important. She really stands out in the "reaping" scene where all the other characters (the inhabitants of District 12) are dressed in simple gray-colored clothes to symbolize their lack of options, the poverty and the constant hunger while Effie Trinket looks like a strange mixture of the Pink Panther and Tinker Bell. You might think that she is just a crazy, spoiled, luxury-loving person but the entire high society seems to be dressed like her. They're all some sort of clowns with strange haircuts and expensive clothes which make them look ridiculously unnatural. I quite liked the contrast between the social classes. The aristocrats' lives are superficial and they do not seem to care or even be aware of how difficult the lives of the people who live in the Districts really are. The supporting cast is terrific but it is actually Jennifer Lawrence who shines here more than ever and gives birth to one of the greatest movie heroines of the 21st century. When her little sister is chosen for the Hunger Games, Katniss, she does the right and selfless thing and volunteers herself as tribute. By doing that, she loses everything (including a potential relationship with Liam Hemsworth's Gale Hawthorne with whom she shares her disgust towards the Hunger Games) but somehow it feels that she hasn't anything to lose. Fighting for her loved ones (her little sister and even her irresponsible mother) becomes her goal and she has to survive no matter how. She is beautiful, intelligent, skillful and strong-willed and by the time she enters the arena you'll be rooting for her like your life depends on it.
On the other hand, Peeta (the other tribute from District 12, played by Josh Hutcherson) is going through different emotions throughout the film from fear and the certainty of his own death to love and the will to sacrifice. He doesn't want the game to change him, he sometimes looks like he does not know exactly if he is doing the right thing and I can honestly say that there is a bit of Peeta in all of us. Both he and Katniss become characters you come to care about. And that is because of the acting, the direction, the captivating action scenes, the smart script and the human element which is present throughout the entire movie.
From star-ships and trains, to CGI creatures, the visual effects are very impressive. There is particularly one scene that I found phenomenal in which our heroine tries to escape a fire in the forest. The interesting thing is that the fire was actually started by the game makers, the ones who pull the strings and make the game turn out the way they want it to be without feeling any remorse and having no concern for consequences.
But in the end, I think that the big question is "Would you do it?". Would you be able to adapt to survive, to hunt and kill other human beings just like you? What about watching a televised blood-fest like the Hunger Games? I just hope that our future is a lot brighter than that.
Review by Rares Socaciu from the Internet Movie Database.