- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
After two movies largely devoted to wheel-spinning in anticipation of the grand final showdown with its main villain, the Harry Potter series finally kicks the plot into high gear with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, the first half of the two-part adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s final Potter novel (the second part is set for release next summer). There’s so much plot in Deathly Hallows, actually, that it can be a little overwhelming, and its best moments are those that further the personal interactions among Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his increasingly proficient fellow wizarding students Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). Sure, evil wizard Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, still noseless and creepy) is on the warpath and out for Harry’s blood, and there are some big action set pieces as well as a few tragic deaths of minor characters. But with so many characters vying for screen time (some of whom have been barely glimpsed in previous installments) and so many obstacles to overcome along the incremental path to Harry’s last battle with Voldemort, it’s admirable that the movie never loses sight of its main trio, whom we’ve watched grow up over the course of nine years and seven movies.
- Holiday movie blowout
Harry, Ron and Hermione are essentially on their own for much of the film, and the three actors are excellent at portraying the frayed nerves and heightened emotions of being on the run and responsible for saving the world. Watson in particular brings depth and range to Hermione, making her the movie’s (and the series’) most interesting character. Director David Yates is adept at staging the grand special-effects sequences that make for eye-catching trailers, but he also effectively evokes the feeling of isolation and despair as Harry, Ron and Hermione, cut off from their friends, hide out and search for what to do next. Some of that searching is a little overly grim, and the movie ends on a down note that leaves it feeling very incomplete. But as setup for the long-awaited climax, Part 1 does its job, and manages to take time for some meaningful emotional moments along the way.