Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Posted by Joel Copling on December 6, 2015

As the name implies, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" is only the first part of the grand finale of the tale of the boy who lived through a deadly attack as an infant, only to become the prophesied chosen one among the wizarding world to defeat the end-game bad guy. It's brought us from 2001's relatively innocent "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," with its Quidditch games and strolls through the many corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its lessons in which our hero and his friends learned the ins and outs of being magical. There are no airborne games on broomsticks or in-school rivalries anymore, and the lessons have paved the way for actions to be taken. To put it more succinctly, just as Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has come of age, so has the series to which he belongs.

It's far from roses and cotton candy, too, as Harry, who has just suffered yet another tragic, personal loss, prepares for a massive hunt for Horcruxes, objects into which the dark wizard Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has placed part of his soul. Two have already been destroyed (a ring by Dumbledore some months previously and a diary by Harry at the end of 2002's "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"), and there are four more to find. A large part of the middle of this film finds Harry, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) infiltrating the Ministry of Magic, where Voldemort's Death Eaters have penetrated and corrupted the hierarchy. Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), former Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, is in possession of a locket that is the trio's third Horcrux of six.

The sequence perhaps goes on too long, a side effect of a screenplay by Steve Kloves (working here from the first 23 chapters of the last novel in J.K. Rowling's series) that elongates certain passages that could use some trimming. It only becomes frustrating when reasoning that the entirety of Rowling's 769-page tome could have been condensed a bit into a single motion picture. The compromise of splitting them apart when this film's conclusion is separated from the build-up is a disappointment. Judging the film on hand, though, finds a lot to admire, especially as the trio is pushed into hiding by way of constant motion--across the rolling hills and beaches of backwoods Europe.

They wear the locket, which inspires a rotten mood in the bearer, in turns as days slowly begin to repeat themselves. They run through theories of where Voldemort's other Horcruxes are until the conversations become circular. When an answer finally comes, Ron, who seems most affected by the locket's influence, takes the negative outlook and flees the group for several weeks, returning only after Harry and Hermione have visited the former's childhood home in Godric's Hollow (a lovely sequence that turns fairly quickly into Gothic horror). During his time away, Harry and Hermione share a dance just to pass the time and remind them of something happy.

The second half of this first part is reliant on such patience, which means the pace must quicken once a clue leads them to the eccentric Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans), the father of a fellow Hogwarts student who runs a tabloid newspaper that has been printing allegiance to Harry. Hermione reads a children's tale about three brothers who found ways of eluding death, sometimes to their disadvantage, and the story is told visually with jagged, striking animation. A trap is set for the trio, who end up at the Malfoy residence, where Lucius (Jason Isaacs), Draco (Tom Felton), and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) are formidable opponents.

Director David Yates, returning for his third motion picture in the series, adopts a stark palette with the help of cinematographer Eduardo Serra. It's helpful in building an apocalyptic atmosphere, particularly when the three are walking across country and forest path to uncertain doom (The performances by Radcliffe, Grint, and especially Watson are solid at portraying the hopeless helplessness of their situation). There isn't much to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1," but that's ok in the long run. It's the calm before the storm, and the second part promises a lot of payoff in which this film isn't really interested.

Film Information

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Rhys Ifans (Xenophilius Lovegood), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge).

Directed by David Yates and written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling.

Rated PG-13 (intense action violence, frightening images, brief sensuality).

146 minutes.

Released on November 19, 2010.