The beginning of the end for the biggest franchise in cinema history.
When it was announced that the final installment of Harry Potter would be divided into two films it reeked of an exercise in milking more money from the fans. There is of course more than a hint of truth to this but, crucially, the end product, based on the first film of two, justifies the decision. Despite its near two and half hour running time Deathly Hallows never drags and, more than any of the previous films, truly allows the audience to feel part of the wonderful world of wizards.
With Dumbledore no longer able to protect Harry Potter (Radcliffe) the Ministry of Magic puts the chosen one into hiding. However, Voldemort’s (Fiennes) plans are afoot and has soon over thrown the Ministry forcing Harry, Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Grint) into hiding and desperately seeking the Horcruxes that will end Voldemort’s reign of terror once and for all.
It is with a degree of nostalgic curiosity that you wonder how we have arrived at this point in the Harry Potter saga. From its early existence in Christopher Columbus’ first film through to this latest installment the films have always managed to reinvent. It is fair to say that if you have not followed the films up to this point then much of the Deathly Hallows will be convoluted and alien. For those who have remained loyal to Potter this is the culmination of over a decade of work and the results highlight just how much has been achieved.
The natural progression of the films has seen them get increasingly darker and Deathly Hallows more than cements that. Gone are the garish colours that Columbus dipped Potter in and instead director David Yates, returning for his third consecutive outing as an HP director, drains the pallet making the predominant scheme distinctly grey. This allows for a more grown-up feel as the sense of foreboding and peril are brought very much to the forefront of the story. Indeed there are moments when the film hints into the supernatural horror genre. A scene where Ron must confront his deepest insecurities is a welcome creepy highlight.
Based on JK Rowling’s novels, the films have always found the ability to undercut the plot with a sense of growing up, a magical coming of age journey if you will. The Deathly Hallows is no exception and it manages to capture the essence of teenage sexual politics in such a way as to shatter the illusion that is The Twilight Saga.
Due to the nature of this outing being set outside of Hogwarts, indeed the school of magic does not feature at all in this installment, we are able to focus on the relationships between the leading trio much more. Some have, unfairly, labeled it Harry Potter goes camping, but where Yates, and screenwriter Kloves, excel is in taking us on the journey with them, integrating us with the narrative due to its sense of reality over the fantastic environment of the school. Indeed director of photography Eduardo Serra shoots everything with such awe inspiring beauty you long to be on this trip with the characters. The result is that the ante is upped, the peril more present and the tension all the more engrossing. An almost prologue sees Hermoine having to wipe her parents’ memory of her existence so as to keep them safe from evil forces, it is as tender and emotional scene that the saga has ever demanded, if anything more could have been made of it.
The cream of British acting talent still fills out the older generation roles, Rhys Ifans and Bill Nighy crop up here to give fleeting but memorable turns, but as ever it is down to the youngsters to sell us the story. Daniel Radcliffe has literally grown up before our eyes and while his delivery is often forced you still find yourself routing for him and admiring his self-sacrificing ways. But it is Watson and Grint who truly stand out here. Grint is given the chance to be more than just the comedic relief bringing a jealous rage to the character that is more than understandable. Watson meanwhile manages to project Hermione’s attraction to Ron in such a deft manner that you long for her to act on her otherwise impetuous nature. It is fair to say that these two have developed into genuinely engaging and warm actors.
It might not offer a huge climax, that will have to wait for Part 2, but The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the most immersive and engrossing film of the Potter story to date. If the pay off in the next film is half as stunning as the set up in this film then it will go out with a huge bang. Perhaps the quiet before the storm this is one magician who casts an enchanting spell.