(I will be reviewing the entire series in preparation for Fantastic Beasts)
After the frantically paced previous film, the book’s relative inactivity allows this chapter to find a much more patient and emotionally satisfying pace, while still doing justice to the source material. This was always a tricky balance throughout the films, and I think this one does as well can be done.
Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for the last time. The entire wizarding world is living in fear since Voldemort’s return was made public. Hogwarts remains a refuge for our heroes in the ever darkening world. But the students are growing up, and even within the walls of the school, sides are being taken.
Meanwhile, Dumbledore recruits Harry to help discover long hidden secrets that could lead to The Dark Lord’s defeat.
This is a beautiful film. Both in it’s quiet, lovely human moments and because of Bruno Delbonnel’s gorgeous cinematography.
It’s is most definitely a dark movie, Voldemort’s threat looms heavier than ever, and all out war seems inevitable.
But that is probably why this chapter is so valuable. It allows us to slow down and reconnect with these characters one last time before all hell breaks loose
Yate’s blending of darkness, humor and genuinely moving humanity is perfect.
I know I’ve been saying this with nearly every film, but this is yet again, Daniel Radcliffe’s best performance yet in the series. Here we see him more comfortably fitting into the role of The Boy Who Lived, and the film also begins to explore his possible romantic life with varying degrees of success. The Felix Felicis scene allows him to display some serious comedic chops, while also climaxing in one of the most heartfelt and touching scenes in the entire series.
And this brings me to the rest of the cast.
In this film we are introduced to Potions Master Horace Slughorn, played by the always delightful Jim Broadbent. And he is fantastic here. On his face he seems to be something of a harmless buffoon, but as the film goes on, and thanks to Broadbent’s performance we get to see him grow into a fascinating and complex character.
This is also where we finally get to see Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy come into his own. The character is expanded from the cliched bully he has been previously into something far darker and more interesting.
Watson and Grint continue to be fantastic supporting characters, and we get to see their relationships with Harry and each other grow in lovely ways.
And here is where I feel Gambon finally cements himself as my definitive Dumbledore.
While this film is much more quiet and contemplative then previous films, it is far from uneventful. The final pieces leading to the end are rapidly falling into place and even more mysteries from the previous films are answered. And it ends with likely the most cataclysmic event to yet happen in the series. Setting up the conflict for the final chapter in a way that is both heartbreaking and deeply satisfying.
As with the other films, there are a couple subplots that might be lost on non-book readers, but nothing too bad.
It might not be the most exciting chapter in the series, but it is one of my favorites. Yates is able to craft a tone that is both grim and hauntingly beautiful. And it is likely the funniest film as well. Go figure. We get to see these characters at their most human, and the final conflict is perfectly set.