Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part Two
Cert 12A, 130 mins
And so, after ten years, the most successful film franchise in history finally draws to an emotional close.
Fortunately we can say goodbye to our favourite boy wizard, now almost a man, in fabulous style.
The final instalment actually starts quietly and sombrely, but it’s not too long before we’re thrust into tense and exciting action as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) venture into the heart of Gringotts Bank.
Here they encounter a terrifying dragon but manage to escape on its back in a spectacular scene that’s eye-popping in 3D.
That’s a sign of how far we’ve come from the first films, and how epic the final one is in its scope. Harry has worked his way up from flying broomsticks to hippogriffs and now a fire-breathing monster.
This is the first Potter film that’s entirely in 3D and they have left the best till last.
It really works, particularly at Birmingham’s IMAX cinema. Its giant screen is needed to do justice to the scale of the movie.
Of course the story and performances have to work at least as well as the flashy computer effects, otherwise you’re left with an empty shell like Transformers 3. GY
I’d be surprised if any of the three young leads ever win an Oscar. Their acting has matured but in the crucial big scenes is still left wanting.
Thankfully they are surrounded by the best of British talent who wring all the pathos and emotion out of the script.
There’s one particularly touching scene with Harry’s family who have passed on, thanks to the skills of David Thewlis, Gary Oldman and Geraldine Somerville.
It’s a shame that some fine actors, like Robbie Coltrane, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson and Mark Williams, only get a line or two. And a terrible tragedy for the Weasleys is glossed over far too speedily.
But it’s nice to see Maggie Smith and Julie Walters showing off their feisty side in battle. Walters, as Mrs Weasley, has a particularly good moment when she gets to spit the line: “Not my daughter, you bitch!” at Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix. It’ll make you want to cheer.
Alan Rickman makes the most of his time in the spotlight and a hideously no-nosed Voldemort (excellent Ralph Fiennes) speaking Parseltongue, the language of snakes, is truly chilling.
A new arrival is a heavily made-up Ciaran Hinds as Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth. And an old face looking very different is Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom, the real hero of the hour during the climactic battle. My, hasn’t he grown!
The final film is darker than its predecessors and not recommended for young children, who will be confused and scared.
But for those who have grown up with Harry, this is a suitably fitting conclusion.
I couldn’t help feeling rather bereft as I left the cinema. But Harry is The Boy Who Lived, and he will live on in film for many years to come to delight new generations.
Now that’s magic. RL
The Tree of Life
Cert 12A, 139 mins
After making such an auspicious debut with Martin Sheen’s Badlands (1973), it has taken veteran filmmaker Terrence Malick nigh on 40 years to deliver only his fifth film.
It must be agony to be his No 1 Fan.
Though lacking any sign of a conventional plot, the story here is essentially about a family with three sons growing up in the leafy American Midwest suburbia of the 1950s.
Brad Pitt is its strict patriarch who has observed how successful people move without distraction down the middle of the river of life, while Sean Penn is the grown-up architect son who feels lost amid designer buildings.
In a typical Malick narration, mother Mrs O’Brien explains the differences between people.
Some live life as a force of nature ‘finding reasons to be unhappy’ while the grace of others is a survival instinct which ‘accepts insults and injuries’.
For anyone who has lost a close relative or child, The Tree of Life could be a cathartic experience at Cineworld Broad St or the Electric, Station St, rather like a mood CD featuring budgie birdsong on a loop.
I preferred this film’s insight into fatherhood to And When Did You Last See Your Father – which didn’t quite work in 2007 despite the stars including Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent – but it goes seriously adrift by trying to embrace the nature of animal and human history throughout our time on Earth, too.
Thus, while David Cameron has his Big Society, for Malick it’s The Big Picture.
On one level, this is the most spiritual film since May when Emilio Estevez’s The Way featured Malick’s very own Badlands’ star Martin Sheen trying to overcome an equally deep, patriarchal sense of loss.
Yet with naff dinosaurs included for free, the sum of its parts is no better than a little-seen release from last month called Life In A Day.
Screened only at Vue for just two weeks, this 95-minute montage of footage was mostly shot by ordinary people around the world during one 24-hour period last year.
Whereas 95 minutes of Life In A Day saw me leave the cinema feeling joyously uplifted, 139 minutes of The Tree of Life is like watching your whole life crawl towards you on its hands and knees.
But for all of its faults it would still be worth letting any literate, open-minded young teenagers judge it for themselves.
Not only could The Tree... be an eye-opening insight into a completely different world of filmmaking far removed from the so often depressing norm, it might help them to understand their parents more, too. GY.
Hobo With A Shotgun
Cert 18, 86 mins
One of the marks of a true star is whether they can get a second wind long after their youthful vigour has turned into leathered skin.
So full marks to Rutger Hauer for making a good fist of his renewed chance to take on a leading role again.
Now 67, the star of Blade Runner, The Hitcher and those Guinness ads has ten projects on his slate for this year alone.
And he clearly enjoyed the chance to shove a barrel into the face of an endless tide of lawlessness, corruption and violence around him.
Hobo arrives on a train at a sign which says ‘Welcome to Hope town, where the railway ends and life begins’.
Not really. This is a world where he’s appalled that people can be dumped down drains and held tight in a manhole collar so that after they’ve been decapitated women can dance in the spray of their blood.
Or where children on a school bus can be incinerated by a lunatic with a flamethrower.
Playing like a 1980s’ take on early exploitation movies, with a twisted dash of spaghetti western sauce thrown in, Hobo With A Shotgun is foul-mouthed, stomach-churning, sexually oppressive and violent with ludicrous intent.
With lines like ‘Let the girl go, punk – I’m making a citizen’s arrest’, it could have been classed as a guilty pleasure.
But when this amount of ham arrives coated in so much ketchup, there’s not much room left to find any pleasure at all. GY.