Director David Yates and Warner Brothers Studios decided to split the 7th and final instalment of the Harry Potter franchise into two films so as to give the series the send-off they felt it deserved… and probably to extend the life of the cash-cow just a little bit longer. Those who have read the book know the exact point at which the films are split, because it forms the break between the hard-hitting emotional journey of the main trio and the all-out excitement and adrenaline rush of the final battle.
Following on from the tragic events at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we see Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) all saying goodbye to their families and preparing to complete the mission started by Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to destroy all of Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) horcruxes. The three of them end up on the run after the Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimjour (Bill Nighy) is killed and the government falls under the control of the dark lord.
This is far and away the most engaging and emotional film in the series, with almost all of the action focused on the main trio of friends as the pressure mounts and they begin to fall apart under the strain of being away from their friends and families. It is a testament to just how far they’ve all come as actors that they are able to deal with the heavy material without ever feeling corny or over-the-top. All three are better than they’ve ever been before and are convincing and enthralling throughout, with Ron still remaining the stand-out.
As an audience, we cannot help but be drawn in as the usually cheerful Ron slowly begins to suspect that something is going on between the others and suffers a complete collapse of sanity. The film never drags in these portions and despite the lack of action, there is a constant threat in the air to the point where it is almost suffocating to watch. This also allows the director to be a bit playful by adding a wonderful scene absent form the book where Harry and Hermione dance as a way of relieving the stress. It is beautifully and sad in equal measure.
As always in Harry Potter films there is a number of new characters as well as some returning faces. In fact there are so many returning characters that it feels a bit forced, like a who’s who of British actors. The most important of the newcomers is Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans) whose brief appearance at the wedding and then at his home has a pivotal part to play in uncovering the meaning of the deathly hallows of the title. This scene is done in the form of a short animation, which is wonderfully realised and provides one of the highlights of the whole film.
This is a decent enough interpretation of the source material, with everyone making the most of the time they’re given and no footage shot within Hogwarts proving a nice change of pace for the series. Obviously as the final setup for the grand finale, it lacks a proper ending, which is a real shame, but takes its place in the history of the films as the one with the most gravitas and emotional clout to really separate it from the formulaic predecessors. This is almost as good as this Potter franchise gets, which speaks volumes.