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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by David Yates (dir), Steve Kloves (wr)
Review by Drew Bittner
Warner Brothers  
Date: 02 August 2009 /

It is Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts -- and it may turn out to be his last. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry must follow a series of memories and memoirs that delve into the secret of Voldemort's rise to power. He must face some unhappy truths, adding to the burdens he's carried for so long. Even with the help of his friends Ron and Hermione, this may be more than the Boy Who Lived can take.

Cast:

Daniel Radcliffe / Harry Potter
Rupert Grint / Ron Weasley
Emma Watson / Hermione Granger
Michael Gambon / Prof. Albus Dumbledore
Jim Broadbent / Prof. Horace Slughorn
Bonnie Wright / Ginny Weasley
Alan Rickman / Prof. Severus Snape

In the sixth Harry Potter movie, Dumbledore (Gambon) takes Harry (Radcliffe) on a journey of sorts into the history of Voldemort. Delving deeper than ever before, Harry learns about young Tom Riddle (played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin [Ralph "Voldemort" Fiennes' nephew] and Frank Dillane), as well as some things about his own father he'd rather not have known.

Harry also discovers feelings for Ginny Weasley (Wright), while Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) find their friendship taking an unexpected turn. The story is largely about these kinds of revelations, the kids' later adolescence becoming (like with most of us) a time of choosing who and what they want to be. Harry is more angry and sullen than in previous installments--the burden of being who he is seems to be wearing on him, as things start to fall apart--but even the growing darkness is lightened periodically by moments of comedy.

And make no mistake, the darkness is growing. Yates shows the Death Eaters (Voldemort's followers) cutting loose on London in some spectacular scenes, with both Harry and Dumbledore frustrated and unable to stop them. Events hurtle forward, to a final showdown with some of Harry's oldest enemies. This climactic moment proves that Hogwarts is no longer a haven; dangers that previously seemed manageable are now out of control, and Harry's life is at risk wherever he goes.

This movie represents that last moment before everything comes crashing down-- it is a time when the heroes will see the choices before them and the villains will be (for the most part) revealed. Although matters seem black and white, there is a lot of gray here as well; Snape in particular represents tremendous ambiguity, as his role in matters comes into clearer focus.

Although Radcliffe, Grint and Watson get (and deserve) the lion's share of attention for their work as the heroic headliners of the story, viewers should pay attention to Michael Gambon's work as Dumbledore; his performance reflects ever greater subtlety and sophistication in the approach to the character. Also, Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy has some great scenes, as Draco arrives at a moment of reckoning--a decision that puts everything on the line--with terrible consequences yet to be revealed. Felton has grown into his role as well, so that Malfoy is no longer just a nasty, spiteful kid; he's got as much depth to him as Harry, representing all that Harry is not in some surprising ways. He makes a better mirror image to Harry all the time.

Although fans may not single out Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as their favorite of the series, the movie has plenty to enjoy and never feels like it is dragging or marking time despite its nearly three hours run time. The movie employs all the magic of its forebears, but takes the story into darker territory than ever before. It might be a thankless task, in some ways, but this film sets up the story's resolution perfectly.

Strongly recommended.

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