Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I (aka HP7 i)

A funny thing happened when the credits rolled on HP7i. I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of irritation with David Yates for the first time since Order of the Phoenix.

At long last, Yates’s changes made sense. His near-compulsive need to shovel in extra set pieces (as if Harry Potter didn’t have more than enough already) was restrained and used with a certain amount of charm. Steve Kloves had grabbed back the script with both hands – his absence was keenly felt in HP5 and, as I’ve already said, his dialogue couldn’t rescue HP6 – and the story was coherent even for the likes of my husband, who has seen most of the films but read none of the books.

While Daniel Radcliffe still sometimes seems to emotionally tune out and Rupert Grint was necessarily underused, Emma Watson’s Hermione deftly took the centre stage that she is often afforded in the final book and the all-star Who’s Who of British National Treasures always could be relied upon to turn in generous and gripping supporting turns. Alan Rickman was necessarily sidelined, but that will only make his more pivotal role in the final installment all the more fun to anticipate.

The visuals were dark, gloomy and sweeping, as befitted this darkest of conclusions. Yates even snuck in some unexpected raciness, which was slightly disarming but served as a good reminder that the key cast isn’t actually 11 years old anymore. The costume and makeup crew gleefully went to town on Bellatrix, and the various transformations, from Polyjuice Potion to Stinging Hexes are delightfully gruesome.

Although I wasn’t as taken with HP7i as I was with the stunningly constructed Azkaban, for the first time I think it’s more because it’s very difficult to compare half a film with a rounded story rather than because every director apart from Cuaron has been slightly disappointing. I was left feeling like I’d seen a very long trailer for a considerably potentially exciting final film, but also that I was okay with that.

Not one for the really, really faint of heart or sensitive youth, but worth enjoying in the cinema nonetheless.

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