Jul 21, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows — Part 2

Okay, I crumbled. A wet, windy Cornish afternoon hounded me into the movie theatre. I found plenty of majestic sights there — albino dragons flying above roofs, Voldemort laying siege to Hogwarts, and above all Ralph Fiennes himself, delivering a performance that for sheer haggard fixity ranks up there with Boris Karloff 's in Frankenstein and Max Shrek's in Nosferatu — but then we cut back to a whey-faced teen who says "wicked!" and the whole thing comes tumbling down. It's definitely the best of the Harry Potters, but it's also overlong, confusing, and every wannabe one-liner fizzles. The filmmakers still haven't found a style that allows these kids to act and sound like teenagers — there's none of the operatic inner life you find in the first Twilight. They're simperers and people-pleasers — the kind that used to be called "bricks" in books by Enid Blyton — thrust to the front of the queue by the way their faces caught the light over a decade ago when they first auditioned for Chris Columbus. The one playing Ron Weasely has aged particularly badly: he looks like the kind of pallid youth you see slumped in a bus shelter in Cheltenham with a bottle of Scrumpy under his arm and a whippet on a piece of string. Hermione screws up her face and emotes in one scene here, but none of them have grown into actors of stature, unsurprisingly. They all still look lucky to be onscreen, and when they're not on screen you don't miss them, the way you miss Indiana Jones or Buzz Lightyear. Harry dies in this one, or seems to, and one girl mourns him, but nobody else bats an eyelid; when he springs back to life, it's the least cheer-worthy hero resurrection I've seen in a movie. Off his runs, doing his thing, but what is that exactly? What does Harry Potter do for his reputation as greatest Wiz of the Western world, of which we hear no end? He doesn't cast any spells, or devise any magic, or display any great tactical nous. For the most past he is required to stand there and direct his wand stream at Lord Voldermort's, like two neighbours duking it out with their garden hoses. Ah but there is always Lord Voldermort himself. However you carve it up —as a piece of movie acting, horror movie acting, acting in the age of digital effects — Fiennes delivers a masterclass. He's utterly transfixing: serpentine, veined, gnarly, nose flattened against his skull, blue eyes blazing with hatred, he uses every bit of his body to bring Voldemort to life, even his thin wrists, delicately cocked as he looses hellfire upon the denizens of Hogwarts. He reminds you of Nureyev — his movements are that beautiful. You think Alan Rickman is good — the master at wringing his dud dialogue for every every drop of malevolence — but then the two share a scene, and Rickman suddenly seems as harmless as a basset hound. Fiennes's performance is the stuff of nightmares, and Oscars, if only anyone could see it. Dark magic indeed. C+

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