Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth
Running Time: 2hr 22min
Katniss Everdeen and her family live in poverty in District 12, in the totalitarian, post-apocalyptic nation of Panem. Every year, as punishment for a long-ago rebellion, a boy and a girl (a tribute) from each of the 12 districts is chosen, at random, to compete in a televised fight to the death called The Hunger Games.
When Katniss’ younger sister Primrose is chosen, our heroine voluntarily takes her sister’s place. Alongside her District 12 male tribute Peeta, Katniss travels to the Capitol to train, seek guidance, and secure sponsors, all under the watchful eye of former winner Haymitch Abernathy, and chaperone Effie Trinket. Alliances are made and broken, and the cruel reality of the Games starts to claim lives at a fast rate.
Meanwhile, in the background, a nationwide rebellion is brewing, as the Districts become restless, and the tyrannical President Snow tries to tighten his grip. As the brutality of the Games plays out, and the tributes are whittled down one by one, with the whole country watching, Katniss Everdeen could play the pivotal role in the future of her nation.
The Hunger Games was adapted from the successful novel of the same name, by Suzanne Collins, and the movie works on so many levels. Blending the themes and structure of movies like The Running Man, Lord of the Flies, and Battle Royale, while evoking the futuristic media banality of films like Starship Troopers. The film explores the themes of power, corruption, rebellion, and the cult of reality television.
Perhaps where the movie works best is when it operates as a satire of popular culture and the obsession with celebrity. Everyone knows the Hunger Games are pointless and barbaric, and yet the entire nation watches with glee, reducing lives to mere statistics. Of course, Collins didn’t invent this way of looking at reality TV, but she certainly explores it in The Hunger Games. It’s also refreshing to see an action movie led by a female action star who kicks as much butt as any of her male co-stars, possibly even more so.
It’s an important and interesting look at what an alternative future might be like, and one that is suitably terrifying. Overall, The Hunger Games is an enjoyable futuristic adventure, and surprisingly accessible considering its subject matter. Jennifer Lawrence is brilliantly cast and brings the perfect level of self-assuredness to the role of Katniss. But it’s Donald Sutherland as the malevolent and power-crazed President Snow, who, perhaps predictably, steals the movie.