As this adventure begins, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) have fled from the protection of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry because Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his evil followers – including Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonhan Carter), Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) and his son Draco (Tom Felton) – have taken control of England’s Ministry of Magic. In addition to eluding the Death Eaters and Snatchers, their grim mission is to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes (objects that contain bits of Voldemort’s soul), while battling Dark Forces, like the huge snake Nagini. Their creepy search leads them to Harry’s birthplace, the bleak village of Godric’s Hollow, where they uncover surprising truths about their unexpected bequests from Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Meanwhile, Harry’s faith is tested, as are the loyalties of Hermione and Ron, who are obviously attracted to one another. And there’s a budding romance between Harry and Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright).
Adapted by Steve Kloves, screenwriter for six of the seven Potter films, and directed by David Yates (“The Order of the Phoenix” and “The Half-Blood Prince”), it’s far more perilous, intense and realistic than previous installments in J.K. Rowling’s detailed, intricate saga. Harry, Hermione and Ron are like refugees, left to their own devices in an ominous, terrifying world where they learn more about the importance of wands, the Sword of Gryffindor and Dobby the Elf. Since they emerged as wide-eyed innocents in “The Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001), the world has watched Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow into smart and savvy teenagers. Except for Michael Apted’s reality series, “Seven-Up,” which documented the lives of 14 British children, this kind of cinematic chronology has never been done before…and it’s extremely gratifying.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 1” is an intriguing, action-packed 8, building to “Part 2” (set for July 15, 2011) which revolves around a massive battle and Harry’s final confrontation with the Dark Lord.