Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

****

Reviewed by: Robyn Jankel

The sixth instalment of the “most successful film franchise ever” (as the big cheeses never tire of reminding us) takes us ever deeper into dangerous waters, giving us healthy doses of torment, tragedy, anguish and terror, not to mention a bit of good old sexual frustration. Harry and his friends have well and truly hit puberty and with hormones flying around like badly-aimed hexes, Voldemort’s potential for taking over the world is somewhat in danger of taking a back seat.

Okay, it is pretty important. We open with a fantastic sequence of some airbound Death Eaters streaking through London on a destructive mission, blowing out the windows of Ollivander’s wand shop and spectacularly annihilating the Millennium Bridge. As the school term begins, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) enlists the help of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to tempt a retired professor back to Hogwarts and coerce him into revealing a secret which will help them along the road to destroying You Know Who.


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But meanwhile, Harry is feeling the flutterings of teenage love towards his best mate’s sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright) and Hermione (Emma Watson) is equally smitten with said best mate Ron (Rupert Grint), although neither is able to admit this to the objects of their affections. An oblivious Ron is carrying on with Lavender (Jessie Cave); and Draco (Tom Felton), immune to such trivial pursuits, may or may not be a Death Eater and therefore directly at the service of the Dark Lord himself.

There’s no doubt that the producers have whittled down the plot of Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince to the bare minimum necessary to keep the story flowing in a vaguely understandable way. To give them credit, they have done so admirably well, managing better than in any of the previous films to include facts which will appease the fans without getting too bogged down in minor detail. The on/off love story between Tonks and Lupin has been mercifully removed, while the presence of and detail behind the Half Blood Prince is barely there, and consequently missed.

What both lovers of the books and the films will appreciate is the humour. Like the book, this is certainly the darkest film so far, and yet despite this it is also the funniest. This is largely down to the welcome presence of Jessie Cave who turns in a brilliantly comic performance as the lovelorn Lavender alongside Grint, whose scene-stealing moments have been cropping up since Philosopher’s Stone. It took Radcliffe took a few years to catch up with Grint’s natural on-screen ability but Watson has only just managed to make her mark. Still, with the opportunity for a few more emotional scenes in this instalment, and perhaps, simply, the benefit of maturity, she has finally come into her own and the result is an altogether classier film.

A new school term also brings a fresh sweep of the pick of the UK’s acting talent and this time the casting crew have got their claws into Jim Broadbent. Although he lacks his character’s trademark walrus moustache and supreme girth, Broadbent’s portrayal of the complex Professor Slughorn is, as expected, fantastic. The Harry Potter call sheet now reads as a who’s who of British thespians. Those few megastars who haven’t yet been called up must be sitting at home, staring at their Blackberries and wondering what they’ve done to offend the all-powerful Potter production team. Broadbent is welcomed into the fold with open arms and exudes a presence so comfortable that one would be forgiven for thinking that he’d been there all along.

Visually, this is also the best of the bunch. While the bluey-green cinematography of the Harry Potter films has always played a major part in giving them their signature look, newcomer Bruno Delbonnel has gone above and beyond the already fine work created by a gaggle of cinematographers before him. The film is sumptuous in its saturated colours and yet he manages to convey a very real sense of the decay and devastation which is beginning to permeate the wizarding world.

At the screening I attended, I was astonished to see kids who couldn’t have been born when the first film was released. Despite its setting in a school and the perhaps misleading genre within which it has been labelled, this is not a film for small children. The ending is devastating and there are some decidedly scary moments strewn throughout. The evil, scarred face of Fenrir Greyback (real-life cage fighter Dave Legeno), a truly terrifying unchanged werewolf with almost paedophilic leanings, is enough to make a grown man cry himself to sleep. Helena Bonham-Carter’s overtly sexual interpretation of Bellatrix Lestrange is perfectly pitched, but perhaps a tad more difficult for the younger kids to take.

JK Rowling was adamant in her choice to keep the books in line with her characters’ ages and refused to make them “suitable” for younger children. Thankfully, the producers have followed her rules and Half Blood Prince is, as a consequence, far more frightening than its predecessors. This may rule out trips for the pre-schoolers but it will satisfy the fans and it goes a long way towards making Half Blood Prince an excellent addition to the franchise. Story-wise it will never stand alone but in attention to detail, visual effects (both genuine and CGI), performances, comic timing and overall satisfaction, it ticks all of the boxes. It's deserving of the hype (and how often does that happen?) The only downside is the realisation that we’ve only got two more to go. Make the most of Pottermania while you can!

Reviewed on: 13 Jul 2009
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This long-delayed movie about Harry's sixth form year reveals secrets about Lord Voldemort's fractured soul.
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Director: David Yates

Writer: Steve Kloves based on the book by J.K. Rowling

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Julie Walters, Bonnie Wright, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Jim Broadbent, Helen McCrory, Timothy Spall

Year: 2009

Runtime: 153 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK, US

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