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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 -- Film Review

2:00 PM PST 11/11/2010 by Todd McCarthy

Then follows the long spell in the wilderness, the bleakness of which is alleviated only by a small satchel of Hermione's that rivals that of Mary Poppins for its bottomlessness and by a dance to radio music that Harry and Hermione briefly enjoy after Ron bolts in a huff. The duration of this stretch, which sees the protagonists reach their lowest ebb of despair, might have been justified were the actors capable of suggesting more subtext and nuance to express the cumulative emotion of their long struggle. We get the idea, but there's not enough going on moment to moment to stymie the urge to fast-forward.

But once Ron returns and they're able to destroy the Horcrux, leaving three more to go, they visit their friend Luna Lovegood's haunted father Xenophilius (Rhys Ifans), the upshot of which is a beguiling animated sequence that illustrates -- not a moment too soon -- what the Deathly Hallows are.

The friends are eventually captured and hauled into Malfoy Manor, where the maniacal Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter, as entirely captivated by the role as ever) would gladly finish them all off if not for the constraints imposed by the Dark Lord. The ending is not exactly a cliffhanger but, rather, an unambiguous promise of escalated mayhem to come in July.

With two previous Potter episodes under his directorial belt, anointed series finisher David Yates certainly knows what's called for at this point but still doesn't betray a special knack for inspired screen fantasy; it's fair to say that, among Potter directors, he occupies a reliable, prosaic middle ground between the indulgent obviousness of Chris Columbus in the first two and the vibrant work of Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell on entries 3 and 4, respectively.

The marvelous technical wizardry on display can come as no surprise at this point; it seems to get better with each installment. Composer Alexandre Desplat makes his Potter debut with a turbulent, emotional score that borrows from the original theme-setting Williams only to musically identify Harry's owl Hedwig on its brief appearance.

Notwithstanding that Harry Potter is not even 18 years old when Deathly Hallows begins, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and especially Rupert Grint look very grown-up now, the series having taken nine years to make rather than the seven that elapse across the span of the story. Most of the prime supporting players are allowed only a scene or two here, and their comparative absence is felt; it can only be hoped that at least some of them will be afforded final moments to shine in the follow-up.

Opens: Friday, Nov. 19 (Warner Bros.)
Production: Heydey Films.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Toby Jones, David Legeno, Simon McBurney, Helen McCrory, Nick Moran, Peter Mullen, David O'Hara, Clemence Poesy, Natalia Tena, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Bonnie Wright.
Director: David Yates
Screenwriter: Steve Kloves
Based on the novel by: J.K. Rowling
Producers: David Heyman, David Barron, J.K Rowling
Executive Producer: Lionel Wigram
Director of photography: Eduardo Serra
Production Designer: Stuart Craig
Editor: Mark Day
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Rated PG-13, 146 minutes