“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” maneuvers like an independent film fueled by character-driven scenes and heartfelt performances. It is a very moody and atmospheric motion picture offer that works at its best as “half the book’s story.”
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1’ Photos Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
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This first of the two parts of the “Harry Potter” finale is a masterpiece on its own. It’s one of those rare movies I would gladly watch in the theater more than once. It’s worth watching in the best theater for the ultimate cinematic experience.
It may not impress everybody, specifically those who only appreciate movies showcasing distinct beginning, middle, and end parts; but for the rest, it is an undeniable feat to be able to create such an impressive audio-visual treat from the first half of the seventh “Harry Potter” book. It remains faithful in its very essence, yet it is a filmmaker’s own opus respectful of the values of J.K. Rowling’s literary work.
On a personal note, I think David Yates is one truly fulfilled filmmaker. It seems as if he had complete control over the making of the film. And it pays off pretty well. Lucky guy. This “Harry Potter” is not your usual Hollywood mainstream movie. It is way much better than that.
Being darker and moodier than any of the earlier films, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” effectively breaks the mold of what the “Harry Potter” franchise used to be. Filled with valuable insights about growing up, contending with biting realities in life, and becoming exposed to politics gone wrong, the film aptly grows like its characters. It creatively resonates a clear and honest direction where the magical realm allows the general audience to completely relate to the characters and join them as they continue every bit of their journey. It is a perfect junction of pure fantasy and emotional weight and exploration.
Technically polished, this film is not as effects-driven as the rest of the “Harry Potter” offerings. This time, the film’s characterization outshines its special effects. There is also less magic and there are no scenes in Hogwarts. The setting merely juggles in between city streets, forests, canyons, mountains, eerie towns, and English manors. Yet, everything compensates very well given its impressive production values, direction, cinematography, production design, editing, sound and music, and just about every other aspect of it. The three main characters Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley carry the film all throughout. Slow, strange, and haunting, this first “Deathly Hallows” is a fulfilling thriller for both the characters and the audience… and most likely, to the people who worked in the film, too.
From the moody hue of the cinematography to the crisp, unevenly harmonious editing to the solid sound design and musical score, the audience is left drooling for Part 2. Perhaps, the most disappointing aspect of the film is how the people tend to clamor for more once the credits roll. About eight months of waiting for the grand finale requires such patience.
Another admirable thing about this “Harry Potter” film is how rich the emotional expositions are that even if some actions aren’t seen on screen and are only mentioned by the characters, the viewers can finely imagine and feel such powerful elements.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” is a grown-up affair. It’s more for the teens and adults than for the kids. It’s a priceless offering for those who grew up with the franchise for its now decade of existence. As a dark, emotional character study, it manages to be involving and artful outside what the franchise used to be. It is not anymore a fun adventure movie, but an archetypal journey filled with bittersweet moments, potent and dreamy allure, hormonal issues, menacing realities, and meditative explorations. It sustains the grandeur of its action-fantasy theme, while also being a self-reflective indie movie… amidst the fact that it’s produced by a big Hollywood studio.
As a solid prequel to the upcoming “Harry Potter” finale slated on 2011, the film’s dark tone and thematic elements, including the real sense of sacrifice, strained relationships, and confrontation of newly discovered truths, are all strong and captivating. The thrill validates its anti-commercial ending by coming up with such an unevenly paced, meandering, and downbeat treatment and stylish pursuits that don’t try hard to be artsy… yet they are.
146 minutes of watching this masterpiece is worth every moment to see such raw and frayed characters struggle for their own needs and wants. The saga clearly continues to get darker and more intense. As a satisfying blend of mood and spectacle, action and character, wonder and fear, and magic and humanity, it is brooding, action-packed, sentimental, dangerous, and grand.
The screenplay slowly unfolds and works for a truly character-driven ensemble. From the complex characterization to the powerful action-filled moments, the increasingly dark momentum works well with the well-rendered special effects and all the gripping and dramatic moments.
Artistically done with an independent film feel, it transcends the expectations of the viewers to another level. Amidst its unexpected non-conventional treatment for such a commercial blockbuster project, it doesn’t feel heavy-handed. As a well-translated cinematic material, its stylistic elements, including a beautiful animated sequence and a notable dance sequence, are jaw-droppingly great.
For this seventh installment, there is no more reason to take the skills of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint for granted. Unlike the past films, especially the earlier ones where they were wisely surrounded by one acting legend after another, “The Deathly Hallows” requires them to primarily shoulder the film on their own.
Aside from keeping the values of their performances intact for about a decade now, they have proven how much they can carry the franchise as Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. While many of the significant “Harry Potter” characters still appear in this movie, they all have very short screen times compared to how much they had to uplift the past “Harry Potter” films in terms of performance requirements. This is not to say that their characters, this time, are unimportant. In fact, amidst the very short appearances of very talented veteran British actors including Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, John Hurt, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Imelda Staunton, Jason Isaacs and Bill Nighy, along with the rest of the talented newcomers already making their own names in the business, they truly make wonders for the film. It’s just that, for the entire expanse of the story, it’s about the three main characters’ journey… and the three young leads amazingly imbibe the very essences of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. They have truly evolved from being three cutesy little Hogwarts students to young adults now stuck in the darkest and most hopeless times. They literally “nailed every bit of it…”
Yates has officially become one of the best directors ever lived in my personal list. Beyond the covers of special effects and overscoring where many directors tend to sugarcoat their storytelling weaknesses, he truly knows what he is doing and he makes wonders even in the tiny, dialogue-less moments. His direction is aptly filled with rich emotional undercurrents. Whether in big, flashy scenes or in quiet, meditative scenes, he is always equipped in making the best out of his “Harry Potter” masterpieces through his fine use of the film language. With “Harry Potter,” his contribution to cinema continues to be a legend in the making.
On my own personal taste, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” is the best installment of the franchise to date. It is matured, beautifully filmed, unconventional, and emotionally satisfying. It doesn’t rely on a dramatic pay-off and a literal resolution to make itself great. It features elements and emotions that no one ever felt about a “Harry Potter” film before. And in the studio point-of-view, it is a fine tease for the end of the franchise. Kudos not only to the entire production team, but also to Warner Bros. Pictures who has just bravely embraced the non-commercial treatment provided by Yates and his team. This may serve only as half a film, but it works as a mighty good start.
I sure do hope that other studios would already realize how even blockbusters could also be treated with such shrewd quality and non-conventional elements — and the people are willing to embrace them as well.
“The Deathly Hallows” lacks warmth, whimsy, playfulness, and hope… And all these things actually contribute much to what makes the film great. The material calls for such a change of theme and pace with integrity, humanity, and grandness. It effectively leads to a powerful denouement in the story of a boy wizard who has charmed the world for years. With such a strong beginning to a grand finale, people can only wonder how much the eighth installment would be. With its solid buildup for the final chapter, it is surely going to be a bittersweet end as fans of all ages bid farewell to one of cinema’s most legendary and imaginative franchises.
This film may only be halfway through, but the treatment for it makes it simply great.
More “Harry Potter” Articles:
‘Harry Potter’: How Close Have the Films Been to the Books?
‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ Movie Review: Masterful, Moody, and Magnificent
‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ movie review: A Passionately Dementored Fifth
‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ Movie Review: A Dark, Adolescent Potter Film