Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom/USA, 2007. Warner Bros., Heyday Films, Cool Music. Screenplay by Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling. Cinematography by Slawomir Idziak. Produced by David Barron, David Heyman, Lorne Orleans. Music by Nicholas Hooper. Production Design by Stuart Craig. Costume Design by Jany Temime. Film Editing by Mark Day.
Year five and counting. Following the tete-a-tete between Harry Potter and Voldemort (a noseless Ralph Fiennes) and the unfortunate demise of Harry’s friend Cedric in the last installment, the magical world of witches and wizards is steeped into a frenzy of paranoid conservatism: the leader of the Ministry of Magic refuses to believe that Voldemort has really returned. To ensure that these “lies” are put to rest, the minister appoints a sadistically prim bureaucrat (Imelda Staunton) with a penchant for pink Chanel suits and decorative plates with cats on them (hers, of course, constantly animated) as Defense of the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts and general overseer of anti-ministry behaviour. Meanwhile, Harry is plagued by more dark visions in the night, and begins to suspect that Voldemort is connected somehow with his mind, giving him the opportunity to see when his friends are in danger, but also leaving him vulnerable to the dark lord’s influence. Unlike the previous film, The Goblet Of Fire, which fully indulged itself in sequences of silly fun and joy between highly dramatic situations of peril, this chapter tends to barrel its way through its plot, entertaining and speedy but never stopping for a minute to make sure we’re involved in the action. The entire thing is notably dark, not just emotionally but also physically (there isn’t a single sunny day at Hogwarts when there are Bush ‘n’ Blair allegories to be made) and completely devoid of the rip-roaring sense of adventure that permeates the best of the Potter films. Likely it’s the switch to the brand new, untried screenwriter (Michael Goldenberg, taking over for Steve Kloves) that is the reason for the change in tone and rhythm. It’s still good, brimming over with magnificent visual effects, Stuart Craig’s beautiful production design (for which he has so far received two Academy Award nominations) and fiercely committed performances by both the principal cast as well as the host of famous Brits appearing in cameos (Helena Bonham Carter is added to the list here).