With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes; Rated PG-13 (for action violence and frightening images); Running Time: 130 minutes; Written by Steve Kloves; Directed by David Yates.
The most successful franchise in movie history comes to a thrilling, roaring, totally satisfying conclusion in HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2. No doubt, that feeling is going to be shared by Potter book purists and those who only know the movies.
Sure, some fans have moaned about all of the rich material that didn’t make it from book to screen in earlier films, while as recently as last year’s “Hallows, Part 1,” others complained that the film kept in too much of the damn camping business.
But this one is literally picture perfect. Be warned though: If you thought things looked grim last time out, it’s all gotten worse.
Briefly: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) must kill Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Voldemort must kill Harry. Harry and friends are out to destroy the horcruxes – objects that contain pieces of Voldemort’s soul. What are the Hallows of the title? Why the Elder Wand, the Invisibility Cloak, and the Resurrection Stone. But you knew that, or you wouldn’t have bothered to read this far.
Some advice: If you’re not familiar with the Potter saga, this is no place to start. It’s an epic film in an epic series, and it does not and should not stand on its own.
The focus remains on the young wizards Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint), as well as the ongoing battle between good and evil. But the yarn gets flung into all sorts of new directions with the introduction of some surprising plot twists, including flashbacks between major characters that lead to all sorts of revelations about different people and situations.
There’s a pretty high body count in this film, and I’m not talking about just background extras. At the screening I attended, a young girl sitting to me was sobbing uncontrollably after certain losses. But just as the film has a nice balance of action and character study, it also features some wonderful snatches of humor, ranging from an uncharacteristically frisky performance by Maggie Smith as the usually stern Professor McGonagall to the sight of the disgruntled Hogwarts custodian sweeping up after a messy battle scene.
The film even takes time to introduce new players. What? Dumbledore has a brother, Aberforth (Ciarán Hinds)? And it has old friends doing new and unexpected things. Hint: Keep your eyes on mild-mannered series regular Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis).
As with every Potter film there are charmingly old-fashioned visual effects, along with, this time, some spectacularly huge ones (cue the Death Eaters). But the strongest element is the acting. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint grew up in their roles and, no surprise, are unable to do any wrong. It’s Ralph Fiennes, as evil-most-foul Voldemort, who really surprises here. He’s so good that at one point, for just a fleeting moment, even under all of that hideous makeup, he actually earns some viewer sympathy.
I have no doubt that fans are going to love this film. But I’ll go a step further. It’s also going to end up on most major critics’ Top 10 lists.•••
Ed Symkus has been reviewing and writing about films since 1975. His favorite one is “And Now My Love.” The one he despises most is “Liquid Sky.” He lives in West Roxbury.