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Customer Review

"Hunger Games" is certainly the best film I have seen since many many months, and it is a very successful adaptation of an excellent book.

In my personal opinion, both the book and the film are much deeper and much more ambitious, than what most critics and reviewers would make us believe. After reading the reviews in "New York Times", "Le Monde" and on "Msn.com" (to cite only few) I was surprised that they mostly missed everything that is important in this film. With a kind of amused superiority, which people from Capitol in this movie would immediately recognize, the "professional" reviewers pointed at the obvious allusions to gladiator fights, the reality shows, the importance of trashy entertainment in today's TV, the search for a new franchise able to replace "Twilight", etc., etc.

But they almost entirely failed to see, that this film is first and above all about much more important things: how to keep hope, not lose the courage and preserve humanity and dignity under a totalitarian oppressive regime.

I believe that almost everybody now knows that when writing "Hunger Games" Susan Collins attempted basically a modern (even futurist) retelling of the old Greek myth of Theseus and Minotaur. According to this ancient tale, after losing a war, every year the city of Athens had to send a tribute of seven young men and seven maidens to the king of Crete. Once there the young people were locked in the Labyrinth, to be devoured by the monster Minotaur. This yearly punishment and humiliation lasted until Theseus, crown prince of Athens, volunteered to be one of the tributes and once locked in the Labyrinth he defeated and killed the Minotaur.

In "Hunger Games" what was once United States (and I think also Canada) is now called the Panem. It is a country divided in twelve Districts remaining under the control of the Capitol central metropolis. There was once thirteen Districts, but when they rebelled against the central power, the Capitol destroyed completely the District 13 with all its population and then defeated and submitted again the twelve others. In order to remind to its subjects how absolute is its power, the Capitol claims a yearly tribute - one girl and one boy of ages from 12 to 18 from every District. The tributes are then send to an arena and forced to fight, until only one remain alive. This yearly event is called the Hunger Games and it is shown live on TV to all the population of Panem. This film tells the story of what happened at the 74th edition of Hunger Games...

For Capitol the purpose of Hunger Games is to remind yearly how powerful is the central metropolis and how dire can be the consequences of its wrath, but also - and even more importantly in my opinion - to humiliate and degrade the people of the Districts by forcing them to become accomplices (even if under duress) of a barbarian custom in which some of their own children are send to the slaughterhouse. And as all bullies and abusers know, it is much easier to oppress, abuse and brutalize victims who lack self-esteem...

Well, in this film we can see how one of the tributes from District 12, an exceptionnal young girl named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), manages to turn the tables on the Capitol and by allowing people of Panem to regain some of their dignity she will be the pebble which starts the avalanche. The exact way in which she does that will not be revealed here, but both in the book as in the film it is described in a very intelligent and very moving way...

This may seem a rather improbable thing that a 16 years old child can do something that will ultimately bring down a seemingly invincible and all-powerful tyranny, but let's not forget that in the real world, the great wave of revolutions of Arab Spring began on 18 December 2010 with a desperate gesture of a dirt-poor 27-years old Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire after having been robbed and beaten by the corrupt local police one time too much... Less than two years after, the opressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya already collapsed, the seemingly invulnerable dictator of Yemen had to resign and the Syrian brutal regime is facing a massive armed rebellion..

Bottom line, this film is first and before all a story about how even a seemingly powerless person can horribly hurt a tyrannic regime with a magic potion made of lots of courage, an ice-cold determination, a great personal dignity, a little compassion, a handful of flowers, a couple of tears and one defiant and powerful gesture...

The powerful message and excellent scenario are not the only reasons why I consider "Hunger Games" as a masterpiece. Actors were selected very carefully and they perform well. Jennifer Lawrence is simply perfect - there is no other word to describe her performance! However, after seeing her in "Winter's Bone" and "X-Men: First class" I didn't expect anything less.

But the real surprise in this film comes from Josh Hutcherson who plays Peeta Mellark, the boy tribute from District 12. His character is more difficult to play, because Peeta is in the same time more limited but also more complicated than Katniss. Josh Hutcherson could have very easily fall in one of the many traps which are build in Peeta's character. By overacting or underacting he could have make him a wimp or a passive follower or an immature kid, but he avoided those snares with grace and his Peeta comes out of this film as a surprisingly complexe and also a very likeable character. He is certainly not a hero and a fighter like Katniss - but until the very end he preserves his honor, in a deadly place where he shouldn't ever be send...

A special mention goes to little Amandla Stenberg, who plays 12-years old Rue, the youngest of all the tributes. Her character is both secondary and in the same time incredibly important - and this little cute pixie played it perfectly!

Other, more known actors contribute to the success of this film. Woody Harrelson is excellent as Haymitch, the only person from District 12 who ever won in the Hunger Games and is now an advisor to Katniss and Peeta. Lenny Kravitz portrayed a perfect Cinna, the man in charge of image of tributes from District 12 in public appearances before the games begin. And finally there is the giant figure of Donald Sutherland, who plays the supreme ruler of Panem, President Coriolanus Snow. He is purely incredible. There is a moment in this film when he says to somebody "I like you" - and I believe that I have never heard such a terrible and deadly threat in one short sentence since the archifamous Schwarzenegger's "I will be back"...

I also absolutely adored the using of the cameras. In some moments of this film we have the impression of going after the characters with a camera, like a war correspondent following the fighters (this style was also very skillfully used in "The Shield" series). Of course not all the film is turned in this way, but mixing this kind of scenes with more conventional ones gives here an excellent effect.

The games themselves are very skillfully described and are a very dramatic tale, full of surprises and twists. I found them much much better than "Battle Royale", to which this book and film are often compared. The games are deadly and brutal, but there is only limited gore - I think this film is suitable for young teenagers, although not for children younger than 12. There is also absolutely no nudity, sex or strong language and I for one found it a most excellent thing.

There are still many more good things to say about this film, but I believe you should discover them by yourself. One more thing however about the book - it is of course possible to see and greatly enjoy this film without reading the book, but I believe that reading the novel first is a good idea. If reading the whole book is out of question, I would advise to read at least the first hundred pages. It will not reveal much about the games themselves, but it will allow for a better understanding of some of the key elements: the strength of the bond between Katniss and her younger sister, the history that Katniss shares with her hunting partner Gale, the complicated relation between Katniss and her mother and last but not least, the mysterious bond existing between Katniss and Peeta Mellark.

About this last point: if you did not yet read the book I do not want to spoil the pleasure of discovery so I will say just this - Katniss and Peeta lived for 16 years in the same village, but they never spoke one to another (except for an occasional "Hello") and they never touched one another in any way. And still, they share a secret as big as life and death, a secret which both bonded them together and in the same time separated them deeply... If you want to know the solution of this riddle you have either to watch very very carefully every scene of the film or simply read the book...

Conclusion: this film is a masterpiece! I loved it and I am going to buy the DVD as soon as it is available. And I am SOOO going to see the the second part, as soon as it opens!
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