Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Posted by Joel Copling on December 5, 2015

Guerrilla revolution in the face of political corruption and rampant malfeasance is the name of the game in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth installment in a series of adapations from author J.K. Rowling. This time, there are a new director (David Yates, whose background in television isn't remotely predictive of how cinematic his treatment of this material really is) and screenwriter (Michael Goldenberg) on board, which invigorates this entry in the series to a sometimes awe-inspiring degree. Rowling's 870-page tome has been condensed into one of the shortest films in the series. This is only slightly frustrating when certain sections of the book are relegated to montage, but for the most part, here is the first film in the series to play with true greatness.

The wizarding world at large has denied Harry Potter's (Daniel Radcliffe) that he witnessed Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) return two months ago (and nearly died and saw a fellow student murdered by one of Voldemort's henchmen). The situation is so dire that, even when Harry is forced to defend his cousin Dudley Dursley (Harry Melling) with magic, the tribunal that follows is assembled to determine whether Harry should even be allowed to stay at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He barely escapes expulsion, thanks to an oddly distant Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), but the governmental interference doesn't stop there.

Upon his return to Hogwarts, it's clear that most of the other students are also mistrusting of Harry's revelation. It seems the Ministry of Magic is using all of its considerable power to discredit Harry and Dumbledore, infiltrating the wizarding newspaper The Daily Prophet and invoking the privilege to appoint Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a honey-voiced nightmare dressed all in pink, as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Her methods are passive-aggressive in nature, building up the potential to use magic without actually offering a place in which to perform it. She also has a particular soft spot for Harry when it comes to punishment (which leads to an unnerving torture sequence that redefines the ink used in feather quills).

All this prompts Harry's brainy best friend Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) to suggest a revolutionary study group, which they and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) name Dumbledore's Army. The sequences in which Harry teaches them how to cast a Patronus (the defense against a dark creature known as a dementor), to expel another's wand out of his or her hand, and to perform a number of other charms and hexes (Ron's younger sister Ginny, played by Bonnie Wright, is particularly skilled at the Explusion jinx, which obliterates whatever object at which she is aiming) are the lightest and, often, funniest in the movie (They are certainly the only time cinematographer Slawomir Idziak brightens a palette that otherwise remains grim to match the proceedings).

And those proceedings heat up, as is usual when Harry returns to his home away from Privet Drive. Good things happen, such as his first kiss with crush Cho Chang (Katie Leung)--which he describes as "wet" to a bemused Ron and Hermione--and he is reunited with his beloved godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) when an advance guard retrieves him from his aunt and uncle's house and brings him to Sirius' parents house (which was once a haven for dark wizards and has now been morphed into another kind of haven for the Order of the Phoenix, another guerrilla group created Dumbledore in the previous wizarding war). But a pair of visions that depict danger for Harry's and Ron's families prompts Dumbledore to employ vindictive potions master and fellow Order member Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) to give Harry secret lessons on how to defend himself from external mental penetration by Voldemort.

Yes, this is indeed grim stuff, and the finale (always so thrilling, with a focus on the spectacle of the event) is an extension upon that, as the trio, along with Ginny, the forgetful fellow Gryffindor Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), and the loony Ravenclaw Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch, the brightest spot of the new cast), do battle with Voldemort's Death Eaters (which include Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy and Helena Bonham Carter, another new addition to the cast as Voldemort's most trusted lieutenant Bellatrix Lestrange). The fight is thrilling, and even more so is the duel between two great wizards that follows. The focus of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," though, is upon the effect this has on Harry (telling when the camera keeps on Harry's face during parts of that legendary duel), and thank goodness for that.

Film Information

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), Emma Thompson (Sybil Trelawney), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Katie Leung (Cho Chang), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Harry Melling (Dudley Dursley).

Directed by David Yates and written by Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling.

Rated PG-13 (fantasy violence/frightening images).

138 minutes.

Released on July 11, 2007.