Reviewing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” is sort of a complicated task. I say that because of that “Part 1”. This is really just the first half of a movie, and as a result, while it does a great job setting up events that will take place in the finale, it doesn’t feel complete as a movie should.
Directed by David Yates, this is the first half of the seventh and final story in the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling. I won’t bother with much plot summary because if you haven’t seen the previous six films or read the books, you’re way behind. Basically, at the beginning of “Deathly Hallows”, the evil Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) power is ever increasing, and young wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is the only one who can kill him. Harry and his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) ultimately forget about attending their final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in favor of tracking down the Horcruxes, objects that Voldemort has hidden everywhere that contain pieces of his soul. By destroying the Horcruxes, they would essentially destroy Voldemort.
There is, as always, both loads of humor and conflict between the trio. Harry and Ron clash over their methods for finding the Horcruxes, while the romantic feelings between Ron and Hermione are accentuated more than ever. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint are all wonderful young actors who have matured steadily in their craft since the first film in the series was released almost ten years ago. They, along with the rest of the cast (which in this particular film includes a who’s-who of British actors like Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, and Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour) have really come to embody the essence of these characters that Rowling created, and watching them grow is a wonderful thing.
Now back to what I was saying earlier. Splitting “Deathly Hallows” into two parts has allowed it to perhaps become the movie most loyal to the book. There is time to go into lots of detail, particularly in describing just what the Deathly Hallows are. But this movie, while there are several thrilling scenes, is mainly just setting the stage for the epic battle in the finale that is to come. Therefore, it ends rather abruptly and doesn’t have a fully-fleshed out story, so it would be more accurate to wait and judge just how good the film is when its second half has been released and the two can be smashed together.
But what I can tell you from seeing part 1 of “Deathly Hallows” is that director Yates, through his use of cinematography and sound, nearly perfectly creates the somber mood that permeates the story and makes the darkest “Harry Potter” yet (I know, we say that every time a new movie is released, but it’s true). As we follow the three friends on their journey, the feeling that they are truly alone and must conquer this mission without any outside help is apparent. They don’t really know what they’re doing or where they’re going, only that they must keep running and hope they don’t hear one of their friend’s names on the list of dead wizards that plays over the radio that is their constant companion. This may not be the most action-packed “Harry Potter”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t thrilling, and it will likely leave you with a feeling of fervent anticipation for July 2011, when the end comes.
Runtime: 146 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality.
Visit National Cinemedia to find showtimes and theaters for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” in the St. Louis area.
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