My favourite of the four “Harry Potter” films David Yates directed. I think the first half of the seventh book is some of the most compelling work in the series, and given that the film adapts those chapters fairly directly, I was bound to enjoy the film on some level. But to my surprise, Yates actually adapts them quite skilfully. Amazingly, some of the original scenes are my favourites, with a scene of his own creation – Harry and Hermione dancing together to a Nick Cave song, finding solace together in the midst of an impossibly stressful time – easily, easily one of my favourite scenes of the entire series, books or films. The film has proper heart.
My usual complaints about the Yates films still persist – alarmingly dark lighting which obscures even beginning to appreciate the visuals when they’re anything worthwhile, flat and perfunctory direction bringing little to the table beyond merely seeing the book’s story in live action, actors delivering strangely muted performances, sluggish pacing – but the strength of the material, and of a series reaching its climactic point, helps overcome them.
A lot of this comes from the premise, J. K. Rowling’s story, but the meditative quality of the story at this point works so well. It’s a shame it’s half a film. It doesn’t stand on its own well at all. Yates made efforts to make the preceding film work as a singular film in its own right (largely failing in my view, but he still made the effort), but he does no such thing here.
There’s plenty of great sequences, the performances are as good as usual, and it’s the first of the latter films to have a strong sense of atmosphere in its own right. Far from a perfect film, but definitely an improvement over the last two. I give it three horcruxes, and a vial of polyjuice potion.