Rewind Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

The film begins poignantly focused in on Rufus Scrimgeour’s (Bill Nighy) eyes as he declares with voice aquiver that “Dark times are ahead.” It is an apt tone-setter for the remainder of this film that David Yates, who has been at the helm since The Order of the Phoenix, steers into previously uncharted territory.

The film absolutely has to be applauded for resisting facility and showing remarkable restraint and patience with its storyline. When it was announced that the film would be told in two parts, of course, it smelled like a money-grabbing marketing ploy, which has apparently worked, however, once the decision was made it had to be made to work aesthetically and it has.
The young wizarding triad finds itself out of school with no mentor left to find horcruxes, fractions of Voldemort’s soul stored in object that they must destroy, which could be anywhere. Where does one start and how does one remain safe amidst constant threat? This film deals with that. They meander about and in fact hide out much of the time trying to gain knowledge from afar. It’s, to deviate momentarily, one of the lasting images I have of the book, their hiding in the forests and the countryside and this film does deal with that to a great extent.

Yet the information flow is deceptively consistent, it could seem not much is happening but there is a rather even pace being employed throughout, in which, they are slowly acquiring the knowledge they need to better face Voldemort.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010, Warner Bros.)

With the characters out of the shelter of their ivory tower, one that was hardly impenetrable but where their whereabouts were almost always known, there will not be a tale going from one high-impact incident to another. Yet this film contains more genuine scares than your average horror film because of the suddenness and ferocity with which attacks to occur. Very quickly they find no place is safe.

Yet it does set the table extremely well, which there is room for in a series. For the next installment is surely to be full of fireworks.
It’s a tremendously human tale in which we see these characters, whom we’ve watched grow up, changed and stressed and furthermore we see actors, whom we’ve watched grow up and improve, flex their muscles and deliver their most solid, rounded and complete performances to date.

The rest of the cast as per usual is due their kudos. Firstly, there is Ralph Fiennes who makes tremendous use of the very small allotment of screen time he has. Rhys Ifans is wondrous as Xenophilius Lovegood, first as the tree from which Luna fell not far from and then as a frantic desperate man. Helena Bonham Carter continues to take Bellatrix Lestrange to heights which I thought weren’t possible. Then, of course, there’s Alan Rickman who continues to be deceptively simple in his brilliantly deft performance of the complicated Severus Snape. Also, Michael Byrne as Gellert Grindewald, the elder version, ought not be overlooked for his deliciously creepy short stint.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010, Warner Bros.)

It is quite possible that in a film with seemingly fewer effects shots than most throughout the series that the CG here is the best it’s ever been. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the work done on Dobby who in this edition is one of the most stunningly realistic CG-creations ever.
There is of course the matter of the ending of the film to discuss. Much of the Harry Potter film’s success has, I feel, hinged on the endings. Some of them have been a bit too languid on the last shot. Thankfully none have gone Return of the King. The ending of this film is sheer perfection. If you are going to have a bifurcated tale the first half clearly needs to be apparent defeat for our heroes and a moment of triumph for the villain. You could not imagine a more gloriously chilling conclusion than what does transpire in this installment.

As a kind of aside the film introduces the concept of the Deathly Hallows early and then enters with an explanation late, with a very ingenious and creative animated sequence. It may be the most prominent use the title object in the series in a while. I loved The Half-Blood Prince but who he was and his connection to Harry did become sort of an afterthought considering all the other events that needed to come to fore.

It’s very strange to try and assign a numerical value to any film, as some that don’t receive a “perfect” score stay very near and dear to me, it’s even more difficult for this one. In the end the function of this installment is to inform and make the next one possible. To that end it does the job brilliantly and thus it shall be a 10 for that reason and because I did enjoy every minute. Whether that ranks it amongst the year’s best remains to be seen.

10/10

Don’t You Recognize Me: Andrew Lincoln

Don’t You Recognize Me? will be a sporadically posted theme wherein I briefly highlight an early role of a now well-known actor. Typically, it will be one where I didn’t immediately make the connection, hence the title.

This one wasn’t a realization I came upon unassisted, thanks to a tweet by Richard Roeper for that assist, but first a little back story.

As of this writing, I have now read, through trades, the equivalent of the first 102 issues of The Walking Dead in comic book form. When I do read it, it’s been in binge mode. So I held off on starting the TV series until this year. I started watching the series in early January and am now current.

With such a heavy watching schedule, I didn’t look everyone up on the IMDb, but Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, did seem to have a familiar face.

Love, Actually (2003, Universal)

Then late the other night Richard Roeper tweeted a reference to where I knew him from. He was the guy desperately in love with Keira Knightley in Love Actually. Funny thing is now that I did check his IMDb, I see why I missed the connection.

It was literally the last thing I saw him in. Since then there were a few movies I knew of, but didn’t see, and many TV series that are unfamiliar to me. Love Actually was one of my favorite films in 2003 and one I viewed repeatedly, but it’s one film I had to reacquire as it seems to have vanished from my collection. I’ve not revisited it in some time so, in the haze of memory and all the other faces in that film I already knew, he got lost in the shuffle.

So the next time I pop in Love Actually, probably around Christmas, the “Where are they now?” game will be quite the interesting sidebar: Knightley, Nighy, Firth and Rickman have since won BAMs for other works; Thomas Sangster, believe it or not is the voice of Ferb on Phineas and Ferb, Liam Neeson has since developed his badass persona, and of course, Lincoln is on The Walking Dead just to name a few.

It was quite the sudden realization because as soon as I read the tweet I knew the scene in Love Actually referenced and I could see his face, and it crystallized. In the end, the interpretation of Rick on the show is a different one both physically and in some other small aspects. They’re not identical by any means, but they’re both Rick Grimes, which is a testament to both series staying true to their form.

BAM Awards: Best Actor Winners

Once again I am sticking to the “Live Era,” here (meaning I made my choices at year’s end). This is the third such article I’ve posted chronicling my choices in my personal awards (here are links to Best Actress and Best Picture).

2018 Kodi Smit-McPhee Alpha 

2017 James McAvoy Split

2016 Leonardo DiCaprio The Revenant

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2015 David Gulpilil Charlie’s Country

Charlie'sCountry (2013, Entertainment One Films)

2014 Brendan Gleeson Calvary

Calvary (2014, Fox Searchlight)

2013 Johan Heldenbergh The Broken Circle Breakdown

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012, Tribeca Film)

2012 Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln

Lincoln (2012, DreamWorks)

2011 Michael Shannon Take Shelter

2010 Bill Nighy Wild Target

2009 Colin Firth A Single Man

2008 Sean Penn Milk

2007 Leonardo DiCaprio The Departed

The Departed (2006, Warner Bros.)

2006 Nicholas Hoult Wah-Wah

2005 Philip Seymour Hoffman Capote

2004 Jim Caviezel The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the Christ (2004, Newmarkey Releasing)

2003 Jeremy Sumpter Peter Pan

2002 Christian Bale Equilibrium

Equilibrium (2002, Dimension Films)

2001 Haley Joel Osment Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

2000 Kevin Spacey Pay it Forward

1999 Haley Joel Osment The Sixth Sense

1998 Jack Nicholson As Good as it Gets

1997 Billy Bob Thornton Sling Blade

1996 Nick Nolte Mulholland Falls
Mulholland Falls (1996, MGM)

Review- Wild Target

Bill Nighy in Wild Target (Magic Light Pictures)

Wild Target in many ways epitomizes a British comedy and simultaneously epitomizes the Briton take on genre-crossing tales. The comedy is, make no mistake, ever-present throughout the course of this film making it a brilliantly farcical tale. The farce is perhaps the most difficult comedy sub-genre to pull off because it relies so heavily on the preposterous lampooning of what we typically in life or in film take seriously or for granted.

While this film excels far more easily in its comedic elements than it does as an action-thriller, those elements are there and consistent. The edit may be a little unbalanced and a cross-cut or two to the organized crime figures on the chase may be a little late it still does work.

Yet what makes this film most interesting is the interplay of the three main characters. The lead, Victor Maynard, is played wonderfully by Bill Nighy [A performance which after this writing I would honor as the Best of the Year.] This is truly a fantastic character study. We slowly see this man become the person he was longing to be, as in the beginning he imagines dinner conversation and then later on enacts it but he is also a confused man. He is so defined by being a hitman he doesn’t know himself and questions everything; even his sexuality.

The confrontation of that fact leads to one of the funniest and most complex jokes in the film, which can be taken as a triple entendre. That is not a typo watch it and consider the exchange carefully and you’ll see what I mean.

Which leads us to the performance of Rupert Grint. While he is not breaking the mold that made him famous in this part, as he has in others, it is definitely a more grown-up and comedic interpretation thereof and a wonderful counterpoint to the tension of Maynard and Rose (Emily Blunt).

Last but certainly not least is Emily Blunt as Rose who carries off a rather complex character with relative ease and makes her fully realized. She is never predictable and real and furthermore complicates Maynard’s life brilliantly.

Wild Target manages to balance the thrill of the chase and comedic situations and the mix is rather easy indeed. It eases you in familiarizing you both with the status quo of Maynard and Rose and then showing you how their fates will intertwine.

When a film opens with a hit in which the hitman may be betrayed by a parrot and the hitman places his silencer against its head, you should know what you’re in for.  The fact that they argue makes nearly Monty Python-esque. What proceeds from there is a deliriously good time.

9/10

Wild Target will be released on video tomorrow (2/8/11)