Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Directed by David Yates. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy. 2010 – 146mn – 12A. Review by Walter Nichols

The seventh Harry Potter film is the first part of the last episode of the series, with JK Rowling’s last book divided into two movies (Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is released next year).

Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is returning to full power, and holds both the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts school under his control. Harry, Ron and Hermione are the last hope for good, and they leave Hogwarts to find and destroy the last remaining Horcruxes – dark magical relics that give Voldemort his power – before it is too late.

As expected the story is darker than in the previous episodes, and for the first time the more serious tone feels deserved and suitable. While the Harry Potter books are arguably masterpieces of family writing, the films have never felt exciting, with the possible exception of Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban. Deathly Hallows bucks the trend. Spectacular, beautifully filmed, and emotionally satisfying, the film is what the Potter films should have been all along.

The three leads, whose ages were barely in the double digits when the series started, have grown up handsomely, and it’s a tremendous feat of casting to have three stars who still fit their parts so well nine (teenage) years after taking them on. Radcliffe’s acting is still of the deer-in-headlights sort, always unconvincing and at times almost embarrassing, but Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are note-perfect. It’s tradition for the Harry Potter films to feature every decent living British actor, and Deathly Hallows not only rounds up nearly every last straggler but brings back many familiar faces from the previous films. As a result the huge cast is unsurprisingly – but still impressively – flawless, and the actors all a joy to behold.

Whereas the Deathly Hallows book felt rather odd not being set at Hogwarts, the film makes the most of the wider setting, and uses it to underline the epic stakes that lie in the balance. This time it’s not just Harry in danger, or his friends and classmates – it’s very clearly the whole world, wizarding and Muggle alike.

The film, however, is quite densely steeped in Potter mythology, and could be quite hard for a newcomer to follow or even understand. For anyone even slightly familiar with the series’ mythology, it’s a great beginning to what will hopefully be a great finale.

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Star rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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