Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Directed by David Yates
Written by J.K. Rowling (novel) and Steve Cloves (screenplay)
On general release from 19th November 2010

Reviewed by Craig Kell

The final Harry Potter film has finally arrived...well half of it anyway. But never fear, for this is the best one of them all (depending on how Part Two holds up), as the wizardry franchise nears its end. I was treated to the film during a late night showing and was left mesmerized by how dark and adventurous this edition was, as we are slowly but surely bidding farewell to one of cinema's most successful and imaginative franchises. The franchise - like Harry Potter himself - has grown and matured as the years have progressed. Part I of the Deathly Hallows is ultimately a strong build- up to what will be a triumphant, bittersweet finale for everybody. In fact when you do think back to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), you forget how different the young actors were and how innocent the story was. But as the films have gone on, the dark element has proved why these later films have earned a lot more credibility than the start of the franchise.

Following on from the previous film involving the death of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) know that their only hope is to find and destroy the Horcruxes before their enemy Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) restores his full powers by killing Harry. Voldemort's task is to track down Dumbledore's wand and use it to gain control of the wizardry world and starts this by sending Death-Eaters and Snatchers into the Muggle world, killing the mudbloods with the assistance of witch sidekick Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter). After gaining help from the Order of the Phoenix which includes Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) in a thrilling aerial chase sequence, Harry knows his mission is to find the Horcruxes and gets the help from Ron and Hermione. They head on an epic quest across the country in which they find themselves in London's busy streets, trying to claim one of the Horcruxes from former nemesis Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) at the Ministry of Magic, trekking through many fields and forests and then learning about the Deathly Hallows (explaining what the title of the book/film meant), which are crucial to Harry's quest to overcome Voldemort. However many dangers threaten the objective, not only from Voldemort but from each other as the pressure of the task takes its toll. But the long-term association between the trio must hold its own in order to save the wizardry world from evil.

Right from the very start, when the Warner Bros logo appears, this film feels different. The colours are grey, the sound is low and even the famous theme from John Williams seems to have given way to a much darker tone. It doesn't even feel like a Harry Potter film anymore. It makes the first two films from Chris Columbus feel like they are from a whole different universe. You get the impression this is the Empire Strikes Back of the franchise, setting itself up for the storming finale in July 2011. David Yates' direction is he captures the actors and actually makes them seem mature and realistic without coming off as forced. Screenwriter Steve Kloves doesn't forget to add the mood and gloom to the story as it slowly unfolds, but like other Potter films he adds some light humour to the film when it needs it. This proves a key with making this not only a visual spectacle, but also a character-driven ensemble as proven by its stunning British cast (try getting John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Imelda Staunton, Jason Isaacs and Bill Nighy in the same film again). Alexandre Desplat's score also makes a difference, as it literally puts you into the world with its beautiful, harmonious, and emotional tones. Thanks to the decision to split the final book into two films, Yates doesn't hurry through these scenes. Instead, he allows the audience to experience the frustration, jealousy and uncertainty of his characters, and allows for Radcliffe, Watson and Grint to display some fine acting with the lack of distraction from any visual effects.

Radcliffe makes every scene his own, and makes us laugh and gasp and cry if he wants to. His transmission of emotion when a certain character dies is breathtaking. Watson shows growth in her acting and seems more confident than ever, while Grint shows some growth in his acting too by the emotional scenes given. Fiennes conducts the foul-faced Voldemort with such terror and theatrical charisma; he's assured to earn a seat in the category of cinema's greatest villains. Bonham-Carter is also menacing as Bellatrix. Both Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans make their debuts in the franchise, but have only brief roles (the latter's more significant), while the likes of Rickman, Staunton, Isaacs and Hurt also contribute in their own way. In many parts it is thrilling, as there are quite a number of intense action sequences which are done with well-made visual effects. However, the action sequences are perfectly blended in with the gripping, dramatic moments. They don't feel heavy handed and it's beautiful to look at. The additional time for the film also turns out to be a blessing for fans and audiences, allowing them the opportunity to see their favourite supporting characters back on screen - most importantly of course Dobby the Elf who returns to give the movie a touching finale. The inclusion of the animated sequence about the origins of the Deathly Hallows is an absolute masterclass and very beautiful to both watch and listen, a very good bonus to those who never read the book but get given the specific details here.

There is a sense of isolation and loss that plays out in the middle stretch in the film which may be tedious for some impatient viewers - particularly young children who expect to see magical action scenes. The darkness of the film may put parents off taking their children, especially the scenes of Voldemort's pet snake which attacks Harry. Of course, the main factor for the film's problem is again, the decision to cut certain scenes or take away the emotional impact of certain key moments (the death of a couple of key characters early in the film are only briefly mentioned and forgotten straight away). This is a shame considering the decision to divide the book into two films, but still you get your entertainment from what's in this film, and the addition of new scenes including Harry and Hermione dancing, which is beautifully done.

Harry Potter is a phenomenon, not even Twilight will overcome it. But, like all things, it must come to an end eventually. This is the beginning of the end, and fans wouldn't have it any other way.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by Tam on 24th November, 2010 at 19:35
Quality review mate, it's only a matter of time...

Comment left by Julie K on 3rd December, 2010 at 15:24
Nice to see the Mersey Tunnel featuring near the start too!