Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
plus Carlos, The Next Three Days
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1
Thirteen years after the release of J.K. Rowling’s first novel and nine years after the first movie, the Harry Potter saga is almost at its end — and what an ending it’s shaping up to be.
As Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 opens, Voldemort and his legion of Death Eaters have taken over both the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and Hermione are the most wanted wizards in the country, and most of their allies have gone into hiding, if they’re not dead already (spoiler alert: bye-bye, Hedwig). To make matters worse, Harry and Ron’s relationship has deteriorated to the breaking point.
The only thing the heroes have going for them is the endgame involving the destruction of all seven horcruxes (items containing portions of the Dark Lord’s soul), and an ally deep undercover who’s keeping an eye on them. But not only does Harry not know the shape or form of the horcruxes, he also needs the Sword of Gryffindor to destroy them — and nobody’s seen it in ages. Meanwhile, Voldemort is collecting the Deathly Hallows, which will allow him to rule over Death. (Confused? Well, if you haven’t followed the saga in the past, there’s no point explaining it any further: this movie caters almost exclusively to the initiated.)
Deathly Hallows Part 1is relentlessly gloomy and even a bit gory, which is appropriate as the set-up for the bloodbath that will be Part 2. Still, kudos to director David Yates (Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince) for finding some much-needed levity in an otherwise stark landscape (the decoy Potters, for example, are a hoot). Modeling Voldemort’s Ministry of Magic after the Nazis was also a fine choice: the persecution of muggle-born wizards sends chills through the spine, and gives the audience a better idea what’s at stake.
Cynics will call Warner Bros.’ decision to split Deathly Hallows into two movies a ploy to squeeze a few more dollars from the franchise, but it’s really the only way to do justice to Harry’s last adventure. Part 1 covers nearly two thirds of the book, which almost certainly means the climactic Battle of Hogwarts will be on full, glorious display in Part 2 — as it should be.
The brilliance of the conclusion (thus far, anyways) should be credited to an inspired J.K. Rowling, but Yates also deserves some praise for re-imagining the story in such a rich manner. He also corrects one of the few shortcomings of the saga by emphasizing the inner growth of the leads.
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have grown into accomplished actors, and are touching in emotionally demanding scenes (Hermione erasing her parents’ memories is a keeper). New additions Rhys Ifans and Bill Nighy, meanwhile, push the ridiculously loaded cast into overkill, while John Hurt, whom we haven’t seen since the first movie, returns to play the same character 10 years later. Even Dobby, the house-elf, is a less distracting figure — and he gets the comeuppance the ewoks and Jar Jar Binks never did.
Deathly Hallows deserves some Academy recognition: along with the consistently fine acting (no one could do a better Severus Snape than Alan Rickman, for example) and direction, Eduardo Serra’s (Blood Diamond, Unbreakable) cinematography is off-the-charts gorgeous without overshadowing the actors.
In the end, the message of Deathly Hallows is that there’s no such thing as a clean victory: the story (and the camera, for that matter) doesn’t shy away from the sacrifices involved, no matter the nobility of the purpose. Those who dismiss the Harry Potter novels as kids’ books should know that an entire generation who grew up following the wizard’s adventures have had richer lives because of it.
NOVEMBER 27-28, RPL FILM THEATRE
For a world renowned terrorist, Carlos the Jackal was far from living up to his name. Truth is, he was a shameless self-promoter, only too happy to take credit for bombings and assassinations that couldn’t be traced back to him.
The biographical film Carlos portrays him not as a monster, but as a vain, greedy individual whose embracing of a political cause was mostly to mask an ambitious and amoral personality.
Ilich Ramírez Sánchez a.k.a. Carlos was an operative for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to which he was linked for nearly 25 years, regardless of whether the PFLP wanted him around or not. At his peak, Carlos was a source of concern for Western democracies. If only they’d known that Carlos wasn’t willing to die for the cause.
An appealing and pragmatic figure, Carlos enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame at large. Despite his Muslim “beliefs”, the Jackal wasn’t one to reject a roll in the sack, a hefty meal or an alcohol-fueled bender. Carlos’ love was reserved for himself (he thought of his weapons as extensions of his body). But the world’s most wanted terrorist thought his hype authorized him to call the shots, and the PFLP was only too happy to shorten his leash. In his latter days, Carlos was just a glorified hitman, whose main source of comfort was single malt scotch.
The cut you’ll see in Regina is two and a half hours. This is an abridged version of the original, a six-hour-long miniseries for French television. The “choppiness” of the shorter cut becomes conspicuous during the second half of the movie: the number of fades to black is ridiculous. There are no sequences, just scenes representing certain periods in the life of Carlos.
The saving grace of the abridged version is that the show’s main sequence — an accurate depiction of the assault on the OPEC headquarters — is front and centre. Besides being an exciting bit of filmmaking, it highlights Carlos’ cunning and hubris. Also in the plus column: Édgar Ramírez’s quiet but convincing portrayal of the Jackal.
If you can get your hands on the six-hour version, go for it. With more room to move, Carlos becomes a fascinating examination of the Cold War from the foot soldier’s perspective and would make a nice triple feature with Munich and Che.
The Coles version? Not so much. /Jorge Ignacio Castillo
THE NEXT THREE DAYS
Say this much for Russell Crowe: he caters to an adult audience. Not all of his films have set the box office on fire (State of Play and A Good Year, for example, were major bombs), but there aren’t any big, dumb Michael Bay-style spectacles in his canon.
His latest, The Next Three Days, fits nicely into this trend. A remake of the excellent French thriller Pour Elle, writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash) was smart enough to realize an American adaptation could actually be amped up rather than dumbed down, as so often occurs.
A picture-perfect family is devastated when the mother (Elizabeth Banks) is charged with and convicted of murder. Unable to prove her innocence after two years of filing appeal after appeal, her husband John (Crowe) decides his only option is to break his wife out of jail. But in order to succeed, John must transform from mild-mannered college professor into cold and calculating felon: is it worth it?
Haggis and co. concoct a film that is simultaneously an extremely tense action movie and a very intimate drama, with top-notch dialogue matching thrilling sequences. There’s also very little in the way of levity — which is commendable, considering Hollywood’s pervasive need for comic relief.
The one pothole the movie falls into is not knowing when to quit, as the prison break goes on and on, becoming more contrived by the minute. (Using the same elements, the French version had a swift and understated conclusion.) Still, it’s a small flaw in an otherwise good film — and any movie that applies Don Quixote (“If rationality destroys the soul, insanity is a preferable alternative to living in despair”) to modern dilemmas is all right in my book. Try to find that in Jackass 3D. /Jorge Ignacio Castillo