Battle Royal comes to America in this terrifying post-apocalyptic thriller

Film
THE HUNGER GAMES
12A
****

Every year in post-apocalypse North America, the Capitol of the nation of Palem forces the outer districts to send two teenagers as “tributes” to The Hunger Games. Half punishment for a failed up-rising, half reality show, The Hunger Games are an annual televised fight to the death where the 24 teenagers must be the last to survive by any means necessary. When her younger sister is picked, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her place, plunging her into a world of violence, rampant consumerism and troubling moral choices.

Based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel, The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence as the stoical Katniss. It is refreshing to see a girl in a movie who runs, jumps, shoots and generally does something other than moon after her sparkly vampire boyfriend or be a token, prissy annoying wizardess. She handles the role with aplomb, equally comfortable shooting apples from the mouths of roast pigs and letting bee hives fall onto fellow contestants’ heads. Woody Harrelson also features as a believably cynical former tribute who is sent to mentor Katniss and her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

Visually The Hunger Games is a hit, flitting between lush forest scenes, where the teenagers bludgeon each other with sharp things, and the Capitol where the rich citizens tend to favour blue hair, pink afghan hounds and lashings of gold eyeliner.

Where it falls down slightly is the violence. With a 12A rating, there isn’t much scope for actual fear-mongering or limbs flying off, which makes the film occasionally feel a little stunted.

But The Hunger Games works – it’s a genuinely terrifying prospect of where our continued obsession with sadistic voyeurism could lead. It may be made with teenagers in mind, but there’s plenty here for adults to chew over.