This sixth film in the Potter franchise is easily the most accessible and moving of the bunch. Itís dramatic, visually arresting and the principals are older and more interesting. Itís far grittier than its predecessors and in my humble opinion, gives us the deepest emotional connection to the characters yet.
Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is struggling with his status as the Chosen One. He knows the honour brings more than his share of suffering and struggle and the burden weighs on him. He feels responsible for everyone and everything. He is studying Potions but veers from the course when he discoveres a secret book of formulas that had belonged to a certain Half-Blood Prince. And he finds time to fall for Ronís sister Ginny. Heís growing up fast.
Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) has become a muscular, appealing man child, who is catnip to the ladies. Hermoine (Emma Watson) is one of those ladies and as she comes to realise that her heart belongs to him, competition arrives in the form of a habitual snogger Lavender Brown. Hermione and Ronís feldgling romance is the source of significant emotional resonance. Ah, to be young and suffer bittersweet love as an older character says.
Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters are at large, and Draco Malfoy is suspected of joining them in their quest to spread evil around the world. The good three are under attack on all sides, and although the professors are some help, Harry, Ron and Hermoine are sure as usual, that they can fix things better themselves. Hermoine continues to be the biggest bossyboots ever to grace a roll of celluloid.
Jim Broadbent puts in a giant performance as Professor Horace Slughorn, a specialist in Potions, whom Dumbledore has persuaded to return to Hogwarts. Broadbent has a reflective moment that is sheer genius and award worthy. Itís one of the most touching scenes in the entire franchise. But a bigger emotional bang is to come with a death in the family. It is huge.
The young characters face up to new experiences, of loss and death. Itís part of their journey to adulthood and itís sometimes painful to watch.
The art direction is stunning and as contemporary as the HP series has ever looked. It leaves the timeless funhouse of Hogwarts alone, but the reaches of HPís world is inspired by the grey, high def, off kilter look of, among other films, Saw (?!) that gives us clues through its sharp, drear look. The urban world away from Hogwarts is decaying fast. That means the enemies of Harry and his friends are afoot.
The intense natural world that Yates presents, Harry Potterís world, from a cornfield to marshes, vast snowy reaches to pleasant rolling English countryside, is absolutely important to the story, representing the primeval forces with which theyíre dealing. Itís an ancient world shaped by millenia of man and nature and oneís wish to dominate the other.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh book, will be released as two films and should be a corker, taking the action set here to its climax.
35mm fantasy adventure
Written by J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates
Opens: July 15th
MPAA: Rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality
Runtime: 153 minutes
Country: UK / USA