Title: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Directed By: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Bill Nighy, Bonnie Wright, Alan, Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Timothy Spall, Robbie Coltrane, Evanna Lynch, Rhys Ifans
There’s a lot to the world of Harry Potter. We’ve got all these spells with crazy names, people with crazy names, items with crazy names and for those who’ve never read the books or watched the films dozens of times, it’s impossible to remember them all. Having only seen the last film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, once, not knowing enough information to understand The Deathly Hallows: Part I was a major concern. Well, there’s no need to worry because as important as all of the details are, the quality of filmmaking is monumentally more important and that’s as evident as ever in this film. Director David Yates delivers such an entertaining, engaging and well-made film, you practically feel as though you’re part of the world yourself and it’s that sensation that not only clarifies nearly every detail, but it makes for an immensely powerful and all-consuming experience.
Harry, Ron and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) are back, but not at Hogwarts. The search for Voldemort’s Horcruxes is now their top priority forcing them to leave their education and families behind. With the help of Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), Mad-Eye Moody (Brendn Gleeson), Lupin (David Thewlis) and others, Harry is smuggled to the Weasley’s house for hiding, but when their group is ambushed by Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), Harry can’t bare to see his friends suffer on his behalf and attempts to venture off alone. That’s when Ron steps in and puts things into prospective; Harry may be the chosen one, but this situation is far bigger than him.
A short while later, the Wesley’s home is attacked in the middle of Bill and Fleur’s (Domhnall Gleeson and Clemence Poesy) wedding and everyone scatters. Harry, Ron and Hermione wind up together and knowing that everybody is surely in hiding, opt to take the search for the Horcruxes upon themselves. With just a few cryptic clues left behind by Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), they’re left to trek across the land in hope they’ll uncover more clues along the way.
Yates wastes no time pulling you back into the franchise. The seventh installment kicks off with a visually and emotionally powerful montage of our main trio prepping for the dark times to come. After the stage is set, we get a chill-inducing grand reunion between Harry and the reaming members of the Order of the Phoenix during which everything from the previous films comes flooding back and it feels as though you’ve never left this world.
The story holds on tight to your attention the entire way through. A lot happens in this film. It’s basically a road trip story that bounces from chance happening to chance happening until all the elements collide in the grand finale. But as separate as each instance is, the film has a fantastic natural flow that keeps you fully engaged from beginning to end. As much as the Harry Potter films are dependent on action, from the very start of the franchise, the thrill is always directly connected to the characters. Now that we’re seven films in, Harry, Ron and Hermione are practically real people we’ve grown to know and love and that intense and detailed development over the years is vital in The Deathly Hallows: Part I.
While there is a ton of action and wizard combat, a good portion of the film depicts the downtime during their search and considering they’re searching blindly most of the time, they’re often thinking, reviewing the information they do have and just interacting through dialogue. These moments certainly do slow the pace of the film, but it’s necessary. With every lull in tempo comes more character development and with more character development comes an even more compelling action sequence. Ultimately we get a staircase-like plot form that is outrageously effective, leading to an explosive final act.
As imaginative and consuming as the story is, it wouldn’t be the same without our stars. After seeing Radcliffe, Watson and Grint portray the same characters for so long, it’s easy to become numb to the fact that they’re acting at all. While this may be a testament to their natural performances, it’d be a shame to overlook the strides they’ve made from film to film. Harry, Hermione and Ron have come a long way since The Sorcerer’s Stone and all three actors have made those transitions seamlessly. They’ve clearly grown and matured in The Deathly Hallows, yet still maintain attributes from the very first film. The mixture makes the characters so convincing, it genuinely feels as though you know them.
This is Radcliffe, Watson and Grint’s film, but there is a massive supporting cast and every single member delivers a brilliant performance. The most notable of the bunch is Fiennes as Voldemort. Rather than change over the years as a person like the other three, his transition happens visually. From film to film we literally see more of Voldemort and in The Deathly Hallows: Part I, he’s as present as ever. Rather than feel as though he’s merely lurking in the distance, throughout this film there’s the sensation that he can strike at any moment, keeping the tension intensely high.
Helena Bonham Carter continues to deliver some particularly memorable moments as Bellatrix Lestrange as does Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. Rhys Ifans joins the gang as Luna’s father, Xenophilius, and while his screen time may be limited, he still manages to make a notable impact. The same goes for newcomer Bill Nighy as the new Minister of Magic. This list could go on and on, but what it comes down to is that the combination of remarkably colorful characters and excellent performances makes for a never-ending list of appealing roles, ultimately adding to the film’s ability to captivate the viewer overall.
As brilliant as the story and the performances are, the colossal success of The Deathly Hallows: Part I is largely due to Yates. Not only does he capture all of the necessary coverage to make even the most complicated moments and concepts clear, but he jazzes things up so much that the film becomes downright mesmerizing. Whether you’re sitting front and center or craning your neck in the first row, there’s no way not to be sucked in by this film. The combination of top notch directing, cinematography, set design and music on top of the captivating performances and story manages to make this wildly fantastical world feel more real than the person sitting next to you in the theater. The Deathly Hallows: Part I isn’t just a movie; it’s an experience.
By Perri Nemiroff