This penultimate film, and the book it is based off of, is a grim, riveting and frightening point in Harry Potter's history; like Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back, the first part of "The Deathly Hallows" takes the courageous characters that readers and movie-goers have come to love and plunges them into the darkest days and the most trying of circumstances. This flick has much of the humor and charm of the previous six in the HP series, but it is also a slow building crescendo that swarms the viewer with the fear, suspense and shock that ensues as the precarious events unfold.
The tale of the Boy Who Lived has been riddled with dark events and circumstances - Harry's parents being murdered by a power-crazed Voldemort and then the boy's awful family forcing Harry to be the Cinderella in their household - but the friendships, adventures and fun of magic at Hogwarts always seemed to balance out the harshness of Harry's reality. Unfortunately, the Chosen One, Harry Potter, is the only person who has the possibility of killing the Dark Lord who has risen to gain a tyrant's control over much of the wizarding world. Harry is targeted as the lone threat to Voldemort's domination of everything and the government and Death Eaters now have total control to seek the 17 year old at will; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a contrastingly different experience than the previous looks into Rowling's wonderful tale.
The odds are against Harry, Ron and Hermione, as their mentor and hero Professor Dumbledore is dead; the one hope that they had, in their ally and shield against the utterly evil Voldemort and his armies of darkness, has not only been erased from the earth, but he is being discredited by the press. A biography has emerged revealing little known facts about the dark life that Dumbledore had led. Harry has had no idea of these things and is overwhelmed with the futile feeling that his old bearded ally did not make anything clear to him about how to defeat Voldemort, and the fact that Dumbledore had a mysterious other side creates a disturbingly surreptitious effect.
The cinematography is truly gorgeous, and the fact that Hogwarts is entirely absent lends to the foreign, thrilling and dangerous feel to the movie. The characters of Ron, Hermione and Harry, in particular, go through so much inner turmoil that they become extremely deep and even more realistic than they have been previously depicted.
Voldemort is brought in for some significant screen time and his madness, power and evil show through very well. The Malfoy's estate is just as I imagined it would look and feel, and Bellatrix, who also gets a good deal of more time in this movie, makes the place a harbor for twisted selfishness and the blackness of the criminally insane. This flick is dark! The villains are truly given justice in this film and much more so than any of the previous six installments.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the ultimate cliff-hanger in a depiction of one of the greatest epic tales ever written. The sheer weight of the series is realistically brought about in this film and it is sad, moving and excellent in every way. Ms. Rowling must be proud.
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