Oh hai, Mrs. Dursley (Fiona Shaw), staying in the car and not waving goodbye to her movie nephew Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe)! Oh hai, in this second to British acting royalty hanging on to this adventure for one more installment.
Since I already talked about the casting I might as well talk about how they performed. The good guys (Order?) are better actors than the bad guys (Death Eaters?). Maybe it’s because the Death Eaters are played by familiar faces from whom I expect more. Bellatrix (Helena Bohnam-Carter) and Voldemort (Raph Fiennes) behave so animalistically, like the snake crawling in the room, ending up in the wrong side of camp. Bellatrix is probably the most prominent Malfoy featured in this movie, since father (Jason Isaacs) and son (Tom Felton) only have a line or two, and that’s the conundrum of the rest of the supporting cast in their good or evil side. There are countless other actors listed on the iMDb page who didn’t even make an appearance in the movie.
The cameos for the good side include Neville Longbottom, telling the Death-Eaters who hijacked Hogwarts Express that he isn’t on the train. There’s Ron’s (Rupert Grint) mom (Julie Walters). Apparently we have to wait till July to hear her say the best line J.K. Rowling’s ever written. Brendan Gleeson also has a character here, except that he’s awesome – which is really code for I’m not tired of him yet. There’s nothing remarkable from the two male leads. But while hiding from Voldemort (Fiennes) and his fellow Death-Eaters, Emma Watson’s Hermione revisits her memories of urban and rural Britain without overdoing it. She’s just as busy freaking out over Harry’s safety, roaming the British countryside that’s better lit than it is in other movies. This backdrop also serves as the hiding places for the Horcruxes that they have to find and destroy before Voldemort finds them.
The big three also fight while they’re roaming the country, naturally as friends. It’s the most intense, ad hominem fight that they’ve ever participated on, but they’re gonna kiss and make up. As Ron says in one of the scenes in the beginning, the battle between Harry and Voldemort is bigger than just those two characters. The subtle script didn’t elaborate, thankfully. Harry is on the good side but, through the complex nature of his relationships with his friends, he isn’t virtue’s consummate symbol.
Norman Wilner called the film confident, explaining, like others who have written about the film, how it delves into the dark subject instead of looking into how quirky their magical world is. And the literally moving portraits that are the staple of the Hogwarts world and earlier films, but Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Harry are targets of these magical photographs. Dumbledore has to hide, closing some doors. While Harry, targeted under a new Ministry of Magic where Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) rules, is looking weary in a picture showing him as Public Enemy number one. There’s something sinister about magic now, or what it’s become.
Instead of the singular outlook that the earlier films have produced, this adaptation of Deathly Hallows tells the story through four lens at the most. There’s CGI-heavy artifice to show the spacious magical world, close-ups that feel handheld when the main characters are being emotional – the most memorable example is when Harry and Hermione do a little dance, darker shades showing flashbacks and a glossier cinematography when the three kids are chased into the forest. The transitions among these four aren’t jarring but they are distracting.
I’m the last person to see this movie, buying my ticket at the Carlton. Being almost late, I sat at the back, having to listen to the rickety projector that sounded like birds chirping. That fit well with the rural scenes. There was also a homeless drunk guy, who started banging his bags on the floor and yelling incoherently at the screen. The audience was relieved when he left.