Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a hard film to recommend. It's fantastic - it is - but hard to recommend.
It is a great continuation of the more brooding tone of the Deathly Hallows Part 1
, and delicately balances the key moments of the story with the quieter moments of introspection and solitude that Harry Potter has to go through for his journey to be complete.
It is also a powerfully made film that carefully explores the various subtexts and themes from the books as well as a continuation of the very different universe the films inhabit.
If you are, however, new to the franchise from having never read the books or watched at least the last film, this isn't for you. I'm sorry, but it simply isn't.
The film is running on a tight schedule, and has no time for the non-initiates. Without an acknowledgement of the first film's events, it begins right where Part 1 left off. Reeling from the personal losses from earlier, our heroes are in the pursuit of parts of Lord Voldernort's soul, which must be destroyed before they can take him on.
After a small detour, they end up back in Hogwarts, now under new management, and utterly bleak. A massive war breaks out between Voldermort's forces and the people bent on making a stand at Hogwarts, and this magical battle is the large part of the backdrop for the journey Potter must undertake.
Key here is backdrop - while the entire battle is completely shattering and viscerally brought to life, Director David Yates focuses on the character beats and the important personal choices that face our heroes. The action is thundering and unrelenting, but it is recreated to show us that the loss and redemption of Harry Potter is of maximum importance to the telling of the tale.
This is a race for Harry to defeat Voldermort and destroy the slivers of his souls. The raging battle becomes the deadly punctuation in that race. Savour every snippet and every moment - the economy of frames is such that not one beautiful frame is milked from more than is necessary. Tonks and Lupin reach out to each other in a moment of pure panic and resolve, and that is all you see of them for a long while. But damned if the image doesn't stay with you till the end.
The books are ultimately their own beast, and complete credit to Yates in taking the films to their own morality plane, a place which is familiar but the emotional landscape of which is completely
Deathly Hallows Part 2 is about sacrifice - what Harry's quest demands of his friends and what he ultimately has to offer - and how it places a responsibility on us to make it count. It is about family and friends, and how we do what we do because that one moment of sunlight with our loved ones is worth everything, and how we don't have to say anything to understand them.
Daniel Radcliffe has grown up with this role - as have Watson and Grint - and it shows. The fear and courage, the doubt and resolve, all come to life with these lovely child actors who have found a certain zen way to portray these characters.
Add to it the full weight of the British film fraternity (newcomers include big hitters like Kelly MacDonald and Ciaran Hinds) playing small yet important roles, and you can see why this world can be so believable.
Ralph Fiennes has also created one of the most chilling villains in cinema, and builds on that strength to bring an ever doubtful, weakening and dangerous Voldermort.
The biggest winner, though, is Alan Rickman as Snape. A small sequence that shows this man's presence in the important events of Harry Potter's life and how he shaped it give Rickman enough space to do his magic, and he shows us why we love him so much. He embodies the
younger, more emotions-on-the-sleeve Snape and the more reserved, angry Snape, and brings that character to life in under 5 minutes.
David Yates is an ace at directing these actors, but combined with Eduardo Serra's photography, he literally breathes magic on the screen. The economic design and staging are joined by some truly amazing battle sequences, and not in the epic high fantasy vein, but in the highly visceral and personal violence of the best of war films, to create a true war of magic. This is no longer simply a film adaptation - Yates and his cohorts have made a truly cinematic triumph.
No fan of cinema will doubt the way Yates has shot and mounted each little bit of the film. You may have niggles as a fan for missing out on moments that were key to you personally, but Yates is ruthless in cutting everything save the moments that serve his tone, his pacing and his goal, to show us the ravages of war and the impact it has on a boy who has the responsibility of ridding the world of evil on his shoulders.
This is one of the best films you'll see all year if you have seen every single Harry Potter film, including Deathly Hallows Part 1, and if you are a fan of the books. It isn't as complete or even handed to appeal to anyone who may not have seen the films. This isn't a great adaptation as much as it is a great ending to a film series and a cinematic understanding of the themes of the books.