Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Another disappointing Harry Potter film? You couldn’t be more Ron. 

“These are dark times, there is no denying” Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy) declares to a throng of anxious looking witches and wizards in the dark halls of the Ministry of Magic, at the very opening of the penultimate instalment of the Harry Potter series, confirming suspicions it is the darkest film yet.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are reunited once again, with dark skies above their heads and Death Eaters at their heels, to seek out and destroy the last of the seven Horcruxes and to finally destroy the Dark Lord Voldemort.

With no lessons, Quidditch matches or Hagrid’s Cottage to retreat to, the familiarity and safety of Hogwarts has well and truly “Dissapparated” as the trio take to the road as fugitives on the run, giving The Deathly Hallows the feeling of being something completely different altogether and on a much larger scale than the school grounds.

Despite the ominous atmosphere, there are always familiar faces, such as Brendon Gleeson, Julie Walters, Mark Williams and David Thewlis to reassure us that we are still watching the same boy wizard that we all love.

The contribution of so many beloved characters performed by just-as-much-beloved actors and over so many films helps make The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 the most emotionally engaging film in the series so far.

This is also due to the three lead performances. Grint effortlessly returns to his role as the loyal-hearted, lovable and slightly clumsy Ron, complimented by Watson’s more mature and confident Hermione. Both these characters are given a new space to breathe and a new romantic relationship form between them, adding moments of sexually-tinged jealousy.

Even Radcliffe, whose performances have sometimes left us feeling like we’re under the Cruciatus Curse, manages to portray a young man with the weight of the wizarding world upon his shoulders, perhaps finally growing out of his old Hogwarts robes and into the reluctant, lightening-scarred hero the role needs.

The return of Ralph Fiennes as the twisted Dark Lord Voldemort and a mesmerising performance by Helen Bonham Carter as the deranged Bellatrix Lestrange gives real presence to the power of the dark forces at work.  

Although Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape only features in a couple of scenes, his masterful performance promises there is more magic to come.

Unfortunately, this idea seems to apply to the rest of the film, in that it feels like Harry and the gang are keeping the best tricks up their sleeve for later.

The first act of the film is great, with a quick tempo and bewitching special effects, most notably with a scene where an attempt to smuggle harry from Privet Drive to a safe location results in the creation of several fake Harrys.

The subsequent ambush of the party by Death Eaters and ensuing magical dogfight inside a thunderstorm is also an impressive feat by director David Yates, with fast-paced action and high speed chaos.

Be warned, however. There is a large section of the film that seems to slow to the pace of a boozy Muggle, with Harry, Ron and Hermione finding themselves alone and staving off moods of melancholy. Though speckled with moments of charm, one can’t help but feel this really detracts from the initial energy of the film.

The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 also suffers from the same curse as the previous films, in that there is a sense that screenwriter Steve Kloves is trying to cram as much magic from the books as he possibly can. But this generally does not take from the menacing anticipation of the last film.

All in all, it is the best Potter film so far, with great special effects, familiar comic moments and all the usual magical charm you’d expect. It sets the scene perfectly, and leaves us eagerly anticipating the final magical showdown.

8/10

 

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