At a critical juncture in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Woody Harrelson’s grizzled mentor Haymitch Abernathy pays tribute to his battle-scarred protegee, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).
Similar praise could be lavished on the concluding chapter of the dystopian saga, based on the novels by Suzanne Collins.
This bruising battle royale remains faithful to the books and justifies the decision to cleave the final salvo in two a la Harry Potter and Twilight.
Danny Strong and Peter Craig’s muscular script doesn’t shy away from the moral conundrum of conflict for a generation whose innocence has been stained with blood.
If Mockingjay – Part 1 dragged its feet, trading glancing verbal blows between Katniss and Machiavellian warmonger President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the concluding salvo lands one devastating blow after another as simmering animosity ignites full-blown slaughter.
Without any fanfare, Part 2 opens on Katniss’ anguished face as she recovers from a skirmish with brainwashed Hunger Games competitor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).
The unified Districts are preparing for an assault on the Capitol and Katniss must lead charge, guided by District 13’s President, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and lovestruck childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).
Intelligence reveals that President Snow has planted booby traps around the city in order to annihilate rebels before they reach his mansion.
Casualties are high and the gung-ho heroine must watch as the people she loves, including her plucky sister Primrose (Willow Shields), risk everything in the name of liberty.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is a fitting and relentlessly grim conclusion, distinguished by breathless action sequences that recall the first film back in 2012.
Lawrence delivers another emotionally wrought and beautifully measured performance, torn between Hutcherson and Hemsworth’s rival suitors for Katniss’ hardened heart.
Director Francis Lawrence signs off in downbeat style but does make a couple of notable missteps.
The most gut-wrenching death in the book is an anti-climax on screen and a wistful yet melancholic coda might have been axed entirely by a braver filmmaker.