- 19 Nov 10
Not the most exciting film of the series, but Yates manages to establish the mature, sombre tone needed to lead into the final film...
Based on the first half of J.K. Rowling’s final novel of the series, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part One follows Harry, Ron and Hermoine’s (largely unsuccessful) mission to find and destroy five Horcruxes; dark magical objects that are the secret to Voldemort’s immortality. But Harry is still crippled with guilt by the death of Dumbledore (God knows why – the original Dumbledore died four films ago and he didn’t seem to notice), and is determined to prevent anyone else dying in his honour, so the trio leave the comfort of their usual magical environment and enter the big bad real world to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, Voldemort’s reign over the magical world is growing, as his Death Eaters have seized power of the Ministry of Magic and are terrorising anyone who dares oppose them. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has moved from being the The Chosen One to Public Enemy Number One, and it’s a race against time for Harry to find the Horcruxes before Voldemort finds him. Except that, for a race against time, Harry spends a hell of a lot of the film just, well, sitting around.
Not that you’d guess it from the first thirty minutes. A high-speed mid-air chase, a tense and violent meeting between Voldemort and his Death Eaters and a wedding that ends in disaster all imbue Deathly Hallows: Part One with the surprisingly dark action that made Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince so interesting. But as the young wizards enter the real world and struggle with both their task and their increasingly problematic personal relationships, director David Yates faces a unique challenge of his own. The first film in the series based outside of the world of magic, Deathly Hallows lacks the quirky sets and hectic, special-effects driven action sequences of the other films, and so is completely dependent on the acting abilities of our three young stars and Yates’ directing skill. And, like most of Harry Potter’s potions, the results are mixed.
The three leads spend most of the film hiding in tents sullenly arguing over where the Horcruxes could be, but without any Divination class to distract them, their once sunny friendship transforms into an angsty love triangle that could give Twilight a run for its money. As Ron, Grint is the only one who comes out well, proving himself capable of delivering a believably surly and jealous turn as well as providing the only decent quips of the film. However Radcliffe is as obnoxious and wooden as ever, and even Watson occasionally struggles as the two suffer through some truly cringe-worthy scenes. One magical vision that shows the two attempting to kiss passionately as only smoke preserves their modesty was both pathetically acted and yet so creepy I half expected the Gardai to charge the entire audience for complicitly sexualising underage characters.
Thankfully Yates knows just how and when to distract an audience. Eduarrdo Serra’s cinematography ensures that Deathly Hallows: Part One is absolutely stunning to look at, transforming English beaches, fields, mountain-tops and frost-covered forests into hauntingly beautiful hide-outs for our young heroes, and there’s also a mind-blowingly beautiful animated sequence which merits its own film. And though the supporting cast only make fleeting appearances, Yates is sure to cut to our favourite villains occasionally to keep the pace from dragging, as Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes devour their roles as Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort with menacing gusto.
Suffering from a lacklustre plot and faltering lead performances, Deathly Hallows: Part One is not the most exciting film of the Harry Potter series, but Yates manages to establish the mature, sombre tone needed to lead into the final film. And given what he had to work with, any success at all must be considered nothing short of magic.