Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1


Following Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) death, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) go out into the real world to find and destroy Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) Horcruxes and defeat him as Dumbledore had intended. But with the Death Eaters taking over the Ministry of Magic and declaring Harry Undesirable Number One nowhere is safe.

After almost ten years of dominating the box office, this marks the beginning of the end of the series. As a die hard Potter nut I was naturally devastated when the books came to an end in 2007, but it didn't quite feel like the end as there were still more films to come. But now it is with a sense of sadness that I come to review this penultimate in the series. Harry Potter has been a big thing for my generation and one feels that they have grown up with Harry, like he is a relative of some sort so one does feel a bond for him, Ron and Hermione. Even though the series went down hill when David Yates took over with Order of the Phoenix (2007), this is definetly the beginning of an excellent conclusion, and the magic is most certainly back!

What works so well with this installment in both the book and film is the fact that unlike the first six installments (2001-9) the three leads are not within the boundaries of Hogwarts. No matter how bleak it all seemed, you always knew that they would be safe as they have Hogwarts, and numerous protectors, such as Dumbledore, Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), 'Mad-Eye' Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) and Mr Weasley (Mark Williams). But with Dumbledore dead, and the rest of their protectors miles away and in grave danger themselves - *SPOILER ALERT* 'Mad-Eye' is killed early in the story - the sense of danger is greatly increased, as they are in the middle of nowhere, which is greatly heightened by the shots of fields and forests which they find themselves in the middle of, and really creates a sense of in the middle of nowhere type of danger.

The editing and special effects also really make this a successful piece of fantasy. The highlight in the editing department sees Ron, Hermione, Fred (James Phelps), George (Oliver Phelps), Fleur (Clemence Poesy) and Mundungus (Andy Linden) take on the form of Harry using Polyjuice Potion. This is a really clever piece of editing that sees several takes overlapping each other to make the six transformations smooth and believable, as well as rather detailed (some grow taller, some grow shorter, some lose hair, some grow hair, faces change shape, et cetera) making it the most convincing Polyjuice Potion transformation of the entire film series - the transformations of Chamber of Secrets (2002) and Goblet of Fire (2005) looked good but seemed too rushed.
The highlight in the special effects department is an airbourne battle that Harry and Hagrid have with Voldemort and some Death Eaters. With quick, vivid blasts off spells from wands, the images are bold and memorable, and culminate with a golden explosion as such between Harry's wand and Lucius Malfoy's (Jason Isaacs), which Voldemort is using, which is a truly dazzling piece of special effects that steals the entire scene. The fact that this all happens hundreds of feet above the ground is also very eye catching, and could cause a slight sense of vertigo when watched on a big screen, as it also really makes you aware of just how dangerous this film's events will be for Harry very early on (this scene happens about 20 minutes in).

As for the performances of the three leads this film really does show them on top form, which after the last two films (2007/9) is something I never thought I would be saying. The first film (2001) the three generally were not impressive, but with the next three films (2002/4/5) you felt they were slowly but surely improving. Radcliffe did some scenes in Order of the Phoenix very well, but generally, he, Grint and Watson were not impressive, and were ever less so in Half-Blood Prince and it just felt as though they couldn't be bothered anymore now that they had made their millions. However, this film sees them carrying almost every scene on their own and they do finally stand out. Radcliffe brings great weight to Harry's mission, and you can really feel the turmoil, guilt and inner struggles that the mission has on Harry. As well as this, Radcliffe creates some deep poignancy when Harry sees his parents' (Adrian Rawlins, Geraldine Somerville) grave for the first time, and we finally see just how much having been orphaned has truly hurt Harry, in a scene full of powerful emotion. Having been the comic relief in the last two films Grint gives a serious and deep performance full of emotion. Being away from comfort and not knowing whether or not his family are alive makes Ron a much angrier, much more aggresive character, and Grint does this with such heartfelt emotion that it really is a most triumphant performance for him. Watson is also quite moving as Hermione, making her fear and despair over what is happening to the Wizarding World very deep, and the character's love for Harry and Ron quite emotionally touching.
Unlike the previous films none of the supporting cast get a vast amount of screen time, but what screen time they get is used as best as they possibly can. Fiennes ultimately steals the show as Voldemort, making the character very cold, cunning and emotionless. His performance really sends tingles down the spine and you can't help but feel the sort of fear of the character that the Wizarding World fears as the total lack of emotion never fails to shock. This is no surprise as Fiennes is always a fantastic antagonist and is a genuinely talented actor - just look at his performance as Amon Goth in Schindler's List (1993). Helena Bonham Carter is as good as ever as the unstable and sadistic Bellatrix Lestrange, her cruelty and love for torture made quite unnerving and creepy. This film also sees the return of Imelda Staunton as sadistic Ministry worker Dolores Umbridge, and what a performance she gives in her 15 minutes or so, making Umbridge just as cruel and heartless as in Order of the Phoenix, and creating such a gut-wrenchingly false sweet character as before.

In short this is a deep, powerful and strong penultimate film in the series, with great visuals, a superb sense of danger and strong performances, and the film really builds up to the conclusion, out in cinemas this summer!

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans, Tom Felton, Imelda Staunton, Robbie Coltrane, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy, Timothy Spall, John Hurt, Andy Linden, Simon McBurney, Domhnall Gleeson, Clemence Poesy, Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch, Helen McCrory, Warwick Davis, Dave Legeno, Brendan Gleeson, Guy Henry, Peter Mullan, George Harris, Natalia Tena, Nick Moran, David O'Hara, Steffan Rhodri, Sophie Thompson, Oliver Phelps, James Phelps, Michael Gambon, David Ryall, Matyelok Gibbs, Hazel Douglas, Kate Fleetwood.

Oscar nominations: Best Art Direction (Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan), Best Visual Effects (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz, Nicolas Aithadi).

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