Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) / Fantasy-Adventure

MPAA rated PG-13 for violence, frightening images, and brief sensuality
Running time: 146 min.

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Rhys Ifans, Alan Rickman, Jason Isaac, Tom Felton, Bill Nighy, Robbie Coltrane, Timothy Spall, Peter Mullan, Brendan Gleeson, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps
Small role: Richard Griffiths, Bonnie Wright, Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, John Hurt, Warwick Davis

Director: David Yates
Screenplay: Steve Kloves
Review published April 4, 2012

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part ITo commemorate the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's wildly popular series, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows', the powers that be decided to split the book into two films.  The result is a success, as David Yates (Half-Blood Prince, Order of the Phoenix), who films the much pared-down versions of Rowling's increasingly lengthy works, has much more leeway to allow characters and scenes enough room to breathe.  He has topped himself with each successive effort.  It's good enough to make a Potter aficionado that the several previous films had been two-parters as well.

As this is a setup for the cataclysmic finale in Part 2, there isn't much offered other than doom and gloom for our stalwart protagonists.  No Hogwarts-set soap operas, no cloying scenes of whimsy, and no quidditch, this entry plays dark and dastardly, and ends up being the most adult of the series to date.  Harry Potter's stories have grown up along with him, and without Albus Dumbledore around to guide Harry (Radcliffe, Goblet of Fire) anymore, he does have to grow up in a hurry if he means to survive.  The foreboding dread is quite palpable, though richly developed, and provides plenty of momentum to get all but the staunchest of Potter detractors geared up for the finale.

The bulk of the plot involves Harry, Hermione (Watson, Prisoner of Azkaban), and Ron (Grint, Chamber of Secrets) in search of Horcruxes, which are the pieces of the murderous Voldemort's (Fiennes, In Bruges) evil soul that have been scattered throughout the wizarding world.  So long as the Horcruxes exist, Voldemort can remain immortal, so it is of vital importance that all be destroyed lest the villain carry through on his plans for further domination over the good.  With the Death Eaters on their tails, the trio find themselves in a race to stop Voldemort before they are extinguished themselves, and outside of the familiar confines of Hogwarts, and without their teachers to guide them, they're going to have to use all of the tools they've learned in their years of school to combat the most heinous villain the world has ever known.

The trio at the core of the film have certainly grown in their acting abilities over the previous six films, and inhabit their characters with nuance and dimension that only comes from the experience of living those characters for most of their lives.  It certainly helps that they've grown up under the protective eyes of some of the best British thespians in cinema, but they certainly aren't outdone, even with such traditional scene-stealers in the mix as Fiennes, Carter (The King's Speech), Nighy (Pirate Radio), Ifans (Garfield 2) and the rest.  Shades of the old Nazi notions of purity among the tyrannical Ministry of Magic, subjecting their brethren to cruel inquisitions and torturous punishments for wanting the race to mix with Muggle blood. 

Yates proves yet again that he is the most adept of the Potter directors and the one the studio has settled upon to bring the last four films in the series to life.  There are more scenes of quiet contemplation in this film than the previous six combined, as the weight of the circumstances sinks in to the faces and demeanor of the characters in ways where we can feel the isolation, burden, frustration and despair they all carry even when nothing much is being stated aloud.  One standout sequence is a beautifully animated story involving the origin of the Deathly Hallows, brothers cursed by a meeting with Death himself; it is perhaps the one true cinematic moment that lifts the story above being nothing more than just a filmed version of Rowling's novel.  Working with cinematographer Eduardo Serra (Inspector Bellamy, Blood Diamond), it's a beautifully photographed film.

For fans of the series, one can only watch with bated breath as each minute of film draws the series closer to the end they are reluctant to embrace.  It's not a perfect film, and some things that may have been explained fully in the book are at best a bit confusing for those entering the film without having read the story already in novel form, but the good stuff easily outweighs the areas that could use a bit of improvement.  As this is one story split into two parts, the film ends open, and more than a little bleak, setting the plate for the full-course series climax to follow.  With all the creative team on board, its consummate anticipation is well merited.

-- Preceded by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  Followed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.

 Qwipster's rating:

©2012 Vince Leo