Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Film Review)
4 out of 4 stars
After ten years, the Harry Potter series has finally reached its epic conclusion. Featuring an involving storyline, moving performances, and visceral action, ‘Deathly Hallows’ easily ranks as one of the series’ most impressive films to date. Not only does it function brilliantly as a single epic adventure story, it also manages the daunting task of providing closure to the entire series as a whole. Without a doubt, ‘Deathly Hallows’ ranks as one of 2011’s most spellbinding films to date.
‘Deathly Hallows Part 2’ begins where the original left off, with the wizarding world now under the rule of the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Across the world, wizards of non-pure blood descent are being herded into confinement and executed as part of Voldemort’s purges, with his army of Death Eaters killing all who defy him. With Dumbledore dead, the only hope for the free world is three teenage high school students: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson). Together, the three continue their quest to find and destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes, magical talismans hidden across the country which contain fragments of his soul and hold the key to defeating him.
However, time works against them. In a last attempt to crush all opposition to his rule, Voldemort plans to launch a massive assault on Hogwarts, the last remaining stronghold of the resistance. Faced with the destruction of everything they hold dear, Harry and his friends must begin their last and most dangerous quest leading to a final confrontation between Voldemort and Harry.
Without a doubt, ‘Deathly Hallows’ works exceptionally well as an epic adventure story much like ‘The Return of the King’ or ‘Toy Story 3’. Featuring elements of mystery, romance, drama, horror, and comedy, the film is simply sweeping entertainment that will appeal to audiences of all ages and tastes. In fact, the film is as much a coming-of-age teen drama as it is an action film; audiences will be laughing in amusement at Ron’s attempts to woo Hermione as much as they will be gripping their armrests in excitement at an underground mine chase. It is this flawless balance between intimate drama and explosive adventure that has always given the series life and is especially successful in this final episode.
Additionally, the story possesses a new found-maturity, as befits the aging of its heroes. Major characters are killed, and Harry must confront the uncomfortable connections between himself and Lord Voldemort. In fact, the whole movie’s premise centres on questions of morality, with Voldemort and Harry both being portrayed as exceptionally talented wizards who rose to brilliance from troubled childhoods. In the end, the two are almost twisted reflections of each other, with Voldemort representing what Harry could have become if he had made different choices and vice-versa. Additionally, the moral conflict between good and evil is also portrayed brilliantly in Snape (Alan Rickman) and Malfoy (Tom Felton), two of the franchise’s most famous characters. Both of them have their largest roles to date, with secret motivations for Snape in particular being revealed that allow Rickman to deliver his most captivating and emotional performance as the character yet.
Of course, none of the story would work if not for its brilliant cast. As the titular wizard, Daniel Radcliffe has never been better, growing into the role with a confidence and charm that should easily impress most viewers. Even if it’s unlikely to garner Radcliffe Oscar attention, his performance here is nevertheless proof of his ability as an actor. Similarly, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson also bring sympathy and depth to Ron and Hermione, with their romance providing much of the film’s warmth and humour. And of course, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter are as sadistic and menacing as ever as Lord Voldemort and his second-in-command Bellatrix Lestrange. However, the standout performance belongs to Alan Rickman as Snape, whose tragic character arc allows Rickman to deliver one of the most complex and moving portrayals in the franchise’s history. The emotions that the character embodies range widely from hatred, jealousy, fear, and finally acceptance, and Rickman conveys all of them in thoroughly convincing fashion. If any actor from ‘Deathly Hallows’ was to receive Oscar attention, it would be safe to say that his portrayal of the Snape would be the most likely to receive recognition.
Additionally, the film works exceptionally well on a visceral level as an action thriller. Even though there are essentially only two major action scenes in the film – Harry’s heist of the bank Gringotts in an underground cavern and the final siege of Hogwarts – director David Yates manages to consistently maintain a nail-biting level of tension and a moody atmosphere. This is accomplished not just through the high dramatic stakes of the story, but also through the film’s incredible production design and cinematography: every scene is drenched in a de-saturated, near black-and-white darkness, bringing to life the gothic feel of the wizarding world under Voldemort’s rule. Additionally, the score by Alexandre Desplat is among the darkest and most emotional yet in the franchise’s history, transposing the series’ upbeat main theme into imposing and frantic orchestral blasts during the action scenes and ominous and brooding string sections during the film’s more intimate scenes.
When it comes to the aforementioned action scenes themselves, the results are nothing short of spectacular. In the former scene, Harry and his friends must ride an underground mine train in and out of Gringotts, where a Horcrux is being held, only to find the vault guarded by a giant dragon and a slew of deadly curses. Tautly edited and filmed, and filled with imaginative stunts, the scene raises the pulse much like the mine train ride in ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’. By contrast, the Siege of Hogwarts seems like a cousin of the Seige of Gondor in ‘Return of the King’, and is breathtaking in its sheer scope and frantic pace.
Although undeniably a brilliant film, ‘Deathly Hallows’ does feature some minor setbacks. The most notable of these is the film’s final scene, which although a likely crowd pleaser that doesn’t betray any of the characters, seems overly maudlin and lacking in emotional complexity compared to the masterful ending of the similarly grand ‘Return of the King’. Additionally, the film suffers from an over-abundance of minor characters, many of whom have been reduced to minor cameos in the film from full-fledged roles in the novel. This is particularly noticeable in the battle of Hogwarts, where several characters’ deaths occur off screen.
Ultimately though, ‘Deathly Hallows’ is a moving and thoroughly entertaining farewell to one of cinema’s most beloved heroes. For millions of young fans around the world, Harry’s last outing has even more special prominence: it’s a metaphor for the passing of youth and the transition into adulthood, as many viewers will have literally grown up along with the boy wizard through their childhood. Without a doubt, ‘Deathly Hallows’ is the rare motion picture that ranks as a spellbinding success.
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2′ is currently available on DVD in Shenzhen’.