It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Harry, Hermione and Ron have grown up. The horrors they met at Hogwarts are but nostalgic memories. They are cast out now into the vastness of the world, on their own, and Voldemort and his Death Eaters draw ever closer. Also drawing near is an equally unsettling phenomenon, sexual maturity. Both are barely kept at bay in this first part of the last installment of the Harry Potter film saga.
David Yates' "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is a handsome and sometimes harrowing film, and will be completely unintelligible for anyone coming to the series for the first time. At 146 minutes, it confronts us with a roll call of the many, many characters in the series, and requires a nearly encyclopedic recall of the epic's previous chapters. Though I've seen all the films, there were times when I had no idea what they were talking about. Indeed, there are times when Hermione has to explain to Harry.
My cluelessness didn't bother me, because the film depends more on mood and character than many of the others, and key actions seem to be alarmingly taking place off-screen. Our three heroes have left Hogwarts behind, Quidditch games are a thing of the past, and things have come to such a pass that Harry keeps his white owl in a cramped parrot cage. The film opens with a frightening meeting of the Death Eaters, plotting the destruction of all three young heroes. Presiding is Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), his noseless face disturbingly like a snake's. Harry must be destroyed. That our hero survives after the myriad attacks on his life in the earlier installments does not speak well for Voldemort's minions, but this time they mean business.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) moves his family to a safe haven. He joins Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) in flight, sometimes literally. They seek counsel from old friends and spend a great deal of time in wilderness isolation. They have the ability to materialize anywhere, and we find them in forbidding forests, beside mirror-like lakes ringed by mountains, and in a harsh landscape where the rocks have been riven by deep cracks. That some of these locations are actual and others are CGI is usually not noticeable, although I doubt that Harry would have skipped so casually over these cracked stones if they were real.