The Hunger Games
Directed by Gary Ross
Despite its headache-inducing cinematography and very little new material to offer, The Hunger Games is still a very effective action/drama with strong performances and an interesting story.
I have never been a fan of Jennifer Lawrence. Since she rose to prominence after she earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Winter's Bone, she has played what is essentially this same character in every one of her movies since: Strong, self-reliant, and very mature for her age. Up until now, this character has seemed out of her element in most of her movies, but in The Hunger Games, as she fights for her life, we can finally these traits in an aptly applied setting. As a performance, Lawrence is strong and memorable; as a casting choice, she is absolutely perfect.
Like many dystopian films, the setting of this movie has a dark, gloomy, desolate atmosphere with little sense of hope. A morally ambiguous world with a morbid fascination with a brutal social tradition much akin to the gladiators of ancient Roman times. The glitzy, theatrical approach to the "games" is at times entertaining in its own right, but disturbing in nature. This is an excellent representation of societal desensitization at its most extreme.
With many similarities to Battle Royale and The Truman Show, there are few elements about this movie that doesn't share common themes and plot-points with other existing stories. But, as I've said many times before, it doesn't matter so much how original the story is, but how well the story is told. No, this isn't original. In fact, I couldn't point to a single thing in this movie that I felt was completely original, but none of that matters, since what is presented is done so well. This is an extremely well-made movie.
If I were to make one complaint about this movie, it would be the cinematography, which is often nauseating. The use of handheld camera during action scenes is shot so feverishly, it often has the appearance of a found footage film. I can only imagine a home viewing would be considerably more pleasant than watching it theatrically. And though a more traditional style of filming would have most definitely been easier on the eyes, the gritty nature of this almost documentary-like technique only adds to the atmosphere, making the dark events on the film feel all the more palpable.
So, despite a few minor annoyances - ones which, realistically, can be easily forgiven - there isn't much negative I have to say about this movie. It's entertaining, tense, thrilling, and actually gives you a reason to care about the characters. All-in-all, a great way to spend 130 minutes.