Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 1
Review by Jack Foley
FEW will doubt that the Harry Potter franchise is going to serve up a big finale… unfortunately The Deathly Hallows, Part One isn’t quite it.
Great in places, meandering in others, David Yates film suffers from over-indulgence. It simply doesn’t need to be as long as it is and, by dividing the final book into two film chapters, runs the risk of ending things in anti-climactic fashion.
That’s not to say this latest, the seventh in the franchise, isn’t without merit. It’s dark, mature and extremely tense in places… even going so far as to test the boundaries of its 12A certificate at times.
But in spite of some great early momentum and a handful of well executed set pieces along the way, the decision to spend too much time with a trio of characters who, by their own admission, become bored, the film badly loses its momentum and drops the tension that should permeate throughout.
At two and a quarter hours (stretching to two and a half if you brave the credits), this simply feels like an over-indulgence that only looks set to re-ignite the debate surrounding the need for a two movie conclusion.
The plot is relatively simple, too. With Dumbledore out of the way and Harry seemingly vulnerable, arch-nemesis Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) hatches a plot to assassinate the young wizard, prompting Harry to flee with his loved ones before too many more bite the dust.
Desperate to fight back, however, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two loyal best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) resolve to track down and destroy five Horcruxes, which are key to Voldemort’s bid for immortality.
But as the location of each places them in increasing peril, it’s only a matter of time before Harry puts himself in harm’s way and within Voldermort’s reach.
Yates’ film opens in spectacular fashion, with Harry fleeing his beloved home with the assistance of Mad Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), as well as a spell that allows his various assistants to resemble Potter. The ensuing night-time chase between the good wizards and Voldermort’s Death Eaters is exhilarating.
Memorable, too, is a post-wedding chase sequence that sees Harry and company fending off more foe in a midnight cafe.
But thereafter, the film threatens to grind to a halt on several occasions, as Harry, Hermione and Ron hide out in woodlands and concoct a plan to find the Horcruxes, while bickering with each other and lamenting their lack of a plan.
It’s during such moments that the relative shortcomings of the junior cast are exposed… with neither Watson or Radcliffe able to carry the dramatic weight of the scenes – or bring charisma to the boredom – for the length of time that Yates opts to remain with them.
Grint, on the other hand, does get to show a darker, more argumentative side to Ron’s make-up, which makes a refreshing change from the quips he’s more usually asked to deliver. But he also disappears for too long, just as he gets interesting.
Respite does come in the form of a visit for Harry to his childhood home and the scene of his parents’ murder (culminating in a 12A baiting battle against a giant snake), as well as a chase through the woods involving more of Voldermort’s minions and a comic sequence involving Potters’ break-in to the Ministry of Magic.
While the final moments, when Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix Lestrange gets to come over more demented and dangerous than ever and Harry is forced to say goodbye to another of his allies in suitably emotional fashion, bring the film to a satisfyingly exciting finale.
But it’s notable that most of the film’s finest sequences involve the more mature cast members.
Yates, too, seems to be suffering from the weight of expectation. On the one hand, his film takes several worthwhile ‘risks’, such as moving things totally away from Hogwarts and heightening the darker tone.
He also includes an extremely stylish animated sequence, which explain the Deathly Hallows of the movie’s title in truly inventive fashion.
But at other moments he plays things safe and, as a result, deprives the movie of the claustrophobic tension and even greater sense of loss that its story warrants (the death of at least two key characters, for instance, takes place off-screen).
And yet in spite of so many faults, he still manages to set things up for a tantalising second part that promises to deliver the fireworks (both emotional and physical) that Part 1 only really intermittently delivers.
Running time: 145mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: April 11, 2011
Watch a deleted scene and a behind the scenes peak at the last ever scene here
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