Friday, 19 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - The Review

Director: David Yates

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), John Hurt (Ollivander), Rhys Ifans (Xenophilius Lovegood), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Bill Nighy (Rufus Scrimgeour), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Warwick Davis (Griphook), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Toby Jones (Dobby), Dave Legeno (Fenrir Greyback), Simon McBurney (Kreacher), Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy), Nick Moran (Scabior), Peter Mullan (Yaxley), David O'Hara (Albert Runcorn), Clemence Poesy (Fleur Delacour), Natalie Tena (Nymphadora Tonks), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley).

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Run Time: 146 minutes
Cert: 12 for moderate fantasy violence and threat

There’s a certain element of awe to be taken from the latest Harry Potter film. It’s, of course, the first half of the movie adaptation of the final novel, The Deathly Hallows, and it is also the first to be extended beyond the regular two-and-a-half-hour time frame designated to each novel so far. It may be that length, also, but it is still only the first half of the book, meaning that this final instalment will clock in at around five hours, total.
And it’s a decent ride, throughout. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson carry the majority of the picture, striking out on their own in the hunt for the mysterious Horcruxes, while Ralph Fiennes’ Lord Voldemort has taken over the magical world. Its one enormous road movie that stretches beyond the normal constraints thanks to its magical subtext. Despite this, it also manages to be a character piece that explores the tensions and dangers of being three teenagers alone against the world.
Despite the overall focus on the our three heroes, a large number of famous thespians pop in for cameo appearances. Alan Rickman’s Snape steals his solitary scene, with stone-faced cruelty and monotone menace; Jason Isaacs, Helena Bonham Carter and Helen McCrory work well in their scenes as the first instalments primary antagonists, and Isaacs himself manages to extend his villainy beyond the usual sadistic constraints becoming instead a man with nothing to lose, but everything to gain; even Bill Nighy pops in for a wonderful turn as the gruff new Magical Prime Minister, who meets an untimely end after only two brief scenes. Imelda Staunton even manages to up her own sickening performance as the psychotic Umbridge. It’s Rhys Ifans as the eccentric Mr. Lovegood, though, who’s given the most to do, starting off as a rapid-fire lunatic, before devolving into a piteous and worrisome victim of his own good deeds.
The majority of the action sequences in the film do a good job of translating the tension of the book to the big screen. The initial escape on a flying motorcycle is an intense set piece, while the infiltration of the frighteningly cavernous Ministry of Magic serves to be the film’s most memorable moment. The climactic chase scene, and the final showdown in the gothic Malfoy Mansion, meanwhile, do seem somewhat underwhelming, but ultimately serve their purpose for the story as a whole.  There’s also the sense that everything is being rushed past to get straight to these set pieces, with the Dursley’s farewell from the book facing the chop, and the majority of exposition coming through dialogue explanations that worked well on the page but fall flat on the screen.
In the end, though, it’s just a prelude to the epic finale that is set to arrive in July. The final novel is one of the highlights of the series, and this demonstrates just how loyal to the material David Yates and the rest of the crew are being. Until that epic farewell, however, we’ll just have to make do with this decent first half.

Rating: 8.5/10

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