To Trinket, as well as to Caesar Flickerman, the Games' creepy and affable host played by Stanley Tucci, and all Capitol residents, the Games represent an honor and an “American Idol”-like show; to Everdeen and Mellark, they are death. Donald Sutherland is the Capitol's President Snow, who understands how the Games help the government stay in power.
Woody Harrelson portrays Haymitch, District 12's sole winner whose role is to coach the tributes from there each year; he does so as a drunk with the right mix of aloofness and politicking skill.
The movie does not slow down from start to finish, and the action keeps the audience engaged in the story. The brutality from the books makes it into the movie and would be missing without it, but Ross chose a style of filming that doesn't dwell for too long on any one act of violence.
Ross develops most of the characters thoroughly, although viewers might wish the film took some time to linger, whether over the details shown in the design of the Capitol and its residents or over the back stories of some of the characters that the book's readers have come to know.
But there's only so much time to distill all the details from a book into a single movie, and Ross' choices of what to leave in and cut make sense. He does a great job of balancing the needs of telling a good, visually appealing action story and staying true to the book and its themes that offer commentary about society today.
— Lillie-Beth Brinkman