Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Radcliffe, Watson and Grint reprise their roles

Brooding and atmospheric, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 does everything in its power to justify the decision to film J K Rowling’s epic final book in the Potter series in two parts and succeeds emphatically.

Running in at 146 minutes, Hallows Part 1 tantalizingly sets the scene for the moment all Potter fans have been waiting for – a final showdown between the infamous boy wizard and his nemesis Lord Voldemort. Yet, along the way there are many memorable scenes as events take a turn for the worse for Harry and his followers.

Hallows begins where Half Blood Prince left off. Dumbledore is dead and the Ministry of Magic, in spite of the bold claims of its new minister Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy), is fighting a losing battle against Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

Determined to catch and ‘be the one to kill Harry Potter’, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is as coldly menacing as ever. After receiving some valuable information from Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), Voldemort hatches a plan to hunt down the ‘boy who lived’. He almost succeeds in the first of several attempts to kill Potter which create an aura of genuine trepidation.

For Harry, Ron and Hermione, the comfort and protection of Hogwarts seems a distant memory. As the Ministry falls and Death Eaters descend, the trio are promptly forced to flee from friends and family and set forth together on a mission to destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes, the only means of toppling the Dark Lord himself.

The journey is fraught with danger as feelings run high in the Potter camp. Intriguingly, fear is only one of the emotions on display. Grief and envy also play their part as the respective characters of the three friends are revealed as more complex and multi-dimensional than in any of the previous films. The days of Ron the dimwit and Hermione the swot are numbered here.

A meeting with the eccentric Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans), father of Hogwarts pupil Luna, yields a crucial piece of information which, it is implied, will prove highly significant in the final instalment.

The film ends on a tragic note as a minor character is killed whilst trying to save Harry and friends from almost certain doom after the trio are captured by snatchers. The ‘dark side’ are in the ascendancy and it becomes increasingly clear that it is going to take something special to defeat Voldemort.

The strength of Hallows Part 1 lies in its lead performances whose casting in other films and dramatisations (Muggle parts if you will), in addition to the previous Potter movies, is paying dividends. Daniel Radcliffe gives his best portrayal of the boy wizard yet. His grief mid-way through (at his parents’ grave) and at the end of the film is poignant and palpable.

Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are once again on fine form as Ron and Hermione respectively. Their latent romance adds to the tension permeating many of their scenes. Will they or won’t they? All will be revealed in part two.

The supporting cast also do not disappoint. Many of the UK’s finest reprise their roles and deliver the goods even if their actual screen-time sometimes feels all too brief. Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Voldemort’s favourite servant Bellatrix Lestrange is a particular highlight. Her torture of Hermione, in particular, sent a chill down my spine.

There will be a lot more where that came from in part two I suspect. On this evidence, the final instalment (due for release in July 2011) couldn’t come soon enough.

Director:  David Yates

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Dame Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter,  Ralph Fiennes, Tom Felton,  Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jason Isaacs, Michael Gambon,

Runtime:  146 mins

Rating:  12A

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