Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

****1/2

Reviewed by: Nick Da Costa

Growing up is hard enough in the suburbs but add magic to the mix and the pains can be excruciating. The 5th entry in the Harry Potter canon is a quite stirring blend of all that has gone before - the familiar jokes of friendship the quirk of fantasy, and the darkness that pervades all of it are all present, but shaped by a kitchen-sink drama mentality of the trials and tribulations of an orphan burdened with a life that should be intolerable.

Director David Yates has wonderfully twisted the rather stuffy, privileged atmosphere of the previous films and opened it up to the harsh reality of the Muggle world. Harry's cousin has become a chav, the safety of both his school and the world outside is even more suspect and the wonder that comes with youth is slowly ebbing away. Harry's life at Hogwarts zips by him, the lustre lost not by the handiwork of the evil, Ministry mouthpiece, Dolores Umbridge - brilliantly played by Imelda Staunton as a pink and perfumed Nanny Harridan - but simply because that is what happens when you grow up. Just as Harry's magic must mature, the magic once contained in the walls of Hogwarts slowly ebbs away, its cozy lights extinguished by the fear of adulthood and further loss.

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Magic has now seeped out into the cold darkness of London and beyond. Into the cities and the country. And gone with it are the mannered duels and static pleasantries of combat. In Yates' vision, it's a whirlwind of subvocal battle magic that violates the pathetic combat we saw in films such as the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. This is brutal and chaotic, a fight for assassins, not heroes, and nobody is safe amid the almost beautiful roar of spells.

There's an added sense of poignancy to this film, not simply because of the celebrated death, cut chokingly short, a further sign of the director not willing to pander to cliche and melodrama, but because in juxtaposing Dumbledore's old army with the new one lead by Harry, scenes from which emphasise the development of Radcliffe as an actor, we are wrapped up in a tragic nostalgia. Loss is felt in the scenes between Harry and Sirius and Neville Longbottom and the image of his parents in a photograph.

The death of parents and friends hangs heavy over this film. It is this sad heritage that powers the characters and allows us to see the evident strength that hides behind these children, soon to be young men and women.

I cannot conclude this review without mentioning the startling and captivating presence of newcomer Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. She belies her inexperience, producing an almost ethereal performance that grips you whenever she is onscreen. It's fantastic to see that along with the old hands like Rickman, Smith and Gambon we have such a talent to develop in the next films. A fantastic accomplishment in a franchise that looks to be going from strength to strength.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2010
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Harry Potter and friends find themselves in trouble as a mysterious stranger seizes power at Hogwarts.
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Andrew Robertson ***1/2
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