The major new character in Mockingjay Part 1 is President Coin, and I was surprised by her in the film. It wasn’t that she didn’t fit the image of the character in my head, she very much looked the part. It wasn’t that Julianne Moore didn’t nail her steely, powerful nature, she absolutely did. What surprised me was that she was almost likeable. Not likeable in the sense that I’d like to give her a hug or even share a casual meal, but there were plenty of moments where I found myself liking how she handled situations. Admiring her leadership. And then feeling weird about it because I KNOW things are not as they seem.
I think these confusing feelings about Coin were intentional, to build suspense, but also just due to the fact that we are no longer completely stuck in Katniss’s head. Katniss never liked her, so the reader never gets a good impression of her. But in the movie, we get the scenes between her and Plutarch, the scenes of her in the control room during the attack on 13, and we get new scenes added and some left out that left me with a much more positive impression of her than I had midway through the Mockingjay book.
Knowing when to put Plutarch in his place, and when to accept his help.
Oh Plutarch, always wanting to give advice. Coin knows she needs him in this rebellion, and she knows where his talents lie, so when he suggests that she add some “salesmanship” to her speeches she rebuffs him at first, but by the end of the film we can see that she’s been letting him help craft her words, with good results. When it comes to military matters however, she’s quick to shut down his suggestions. She knows her stuff, and she’s not going to let the salesman make her doubt her experience or her instincts.
I won’t send an untrained civilian into combat – we’re not the Capitol.
This line from Coin, during the discussion to let Katniss go to District 8, is chilling if you’ve read the books, because you know she will do this, along with proposing another Hunger Games. But if you were a participant in this discussion who did not know the future, you would think she was a responsible, moral leader, not wanting to put Katniss in undue danger. Does she want to protect Katniss because Coin is a good person or because Katniss’s service (alive) is valuable to the rebellion? The way Julianne Moore delivers the line makes you believe it’s both.
Coin does put up a mild fight against pardoning Peeta in exchange for Katniss being the Mockingjay, but when she tells Katniss that she “won’t forget” that Peeta’s warning gave them extra evacuation time, it’s meant to comfort Katniss. You think, oh, that’s nice of her to acknowledge the great risk Peeta took in warning them. We’re just on the road to friendship now! Well not exactly, but it’s a positive step, right???
The “You’re Strong Like Me, You’ll Get Through This” Solemn Pep Talk
Again, serving to build a rapport with Katniss, Coin visits her as she waits for news on Peeta and Gale’s fate returning from the Capitol. Prim has already revealed to us that Coin lost her husband and daughter to the District 13 epidemic, so moviegoers understand the woman knows the helplessness of watching loved ones die due to matters out of her control. In my first viewings of the movie, I felt this was a really kind moment, where Coin tries to console Katniss and remind her of her strength and ability to get through tough times. As the book reader, I look back at it now and wonder if by associating Katniss with herself, Coin is finally, discretely hinting through these similarities that she perceives Katniss to be a threat. Coin doesn’t want Katniss to become too strong, she needs her to remain somewhat unbalanced.
All of these moments come together to leave me with the impression of not really trusting Coin, because it’s clear she will do what is best for the rebellion to win, Katniss or her loved ones be damned. However, she’s not giving big clues that she sees Katniss as a direct threat YET, so as a viewer on Katniss’s side I don’t see her as a baddie (again emphasis on YET, it’s not like I can turn off the book brain). I’m curious to see how they make that shift in Part 2.
The added dimension to President Coin – one of the many benefits we get from MJ1.