Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore
Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood
Domhnall Gleeson as Bill Weasley
Clémence Poésy as Fleur Delacour
Warwick Davis as Griphook / Professor Filius Flitwick
John Hurt as Ollivander
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Kelly Macdonald as Helena Ravenclaw
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Helen McCrory as Narcissa Malfoy
Ciarán Hinds as Aberforth Dumbledore
Hebe Beardsall as Ariana Dumbledore
Devon Murray as Seamus Finnigan
Jessie Cave as Lavender Brown
Afshan Azad as Padma Patil
Isabella Laughland as Leanne
Anna Shaffer as Romilda Vane
Georgina Leonidas as Katie Bell
Freddie Stroma as Cormac McLaggen
Alfie Enoch as Dean Thomas
Katie Leung as Cho Chang
William Melling as Nigel
Ralph Ineson as Amycus Carrow
Suzanne Toase as Alecto Carrow
Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall
Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn
Scarlett Byrne as Pansy Parkinson
Josh Herdman as Gregory Goyle
Louis Cordice as Blaise Zabini
Miriam Margolyes as Professor Pomona Sprout
Gemma Jones as Madam Pomfrey
George Harris as Kingsley Shacklebolt
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley
James Phelps as Fred Weasley
Oliver Phelps as George Weasley
Chris Rankin as Percy Weasley
David Bradley as Argus Filch
Guy Henry as Pius Thicknesse
Nick Moran as Scabior
Natalia Tena as Nymphadora Tonks
Dave Legeno as Fenrir Greyback
Emma Thompson as Professor Sybil Trelawney
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Directed by David Yates
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is still looking to find and destroy horcruxes containing the soul of his arch-nemesis Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) along with his friends Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson), but the battle returns to Hogwarts as Voldemort's Death Eaters stage an invasion against the students and staff of the wizarding school.
As someone who still hasn't read J.K. Rowling's final book in the much-loved series, it's hard to tell whether fans of the book will be happy with the final chapter. Those who've followed all the boy wizard's adventures in theaters--even those who were disappointed by the boring previous installment--should be thoroughly satisfied by the way everything wraps up.
If you're in the latter non-reader category, we're not going to ruin some of the bigger twists because there are many, but let's just say that after seven movies, the filmmakers still have a few tricks up their sleeve to insure that the finale feels nothing like the previous six and a half movies. Obviously, they're well aware of how important this movie is to the fans, and they've created a movie that's satisfying to those looking for something big and bombastic, as well as those who want to see a resolution in the relationships.
The results are something that's far better structured and paced than the previous chapter, creating a fairly noticeable disconnect in tone and look even as the three friends continue their search for the horcruxes that will allow them to defeat Voldemort. Most importantly, the bulk of the story returns to Hogwarts and instead of relying solely on the three leads--Radcliffe, Grint and Watson--it brings back many of the characters introduced over the course of the previous six films. This is key to the three young actors delivering some of their strongest performances to date, because they're once again acting opposite some of England's finest rather than left to their own devices.
There are some real standout performances even among actors who have proven to be so good in previous chapters, particularly Ralph Fiennes, who tempers the menace he's been able to bring as the Dark Lord with a more nuanced performance, showing weakness and other emotions. If there's ever been any doubt Fiennes is one of the finest actors working today, then his performance here as Voldemort clinches it. The same can be said for the likes of Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy and Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, both characters portrayed so one-dimensionally in past films, it's nice to see them taking the characters more seriously as their characters arcs are wrapped up while at the same time redefining their relationship with Harry. One of the nicest surprises though is Matthew Lewis, an actor who finally comes into his own as Neville Longbottom, stepping forward to take a more heroic role rather than being the comic relief that must have been tempting when one is faced with such a dark finale.
Every frame of the film looks fantastic, Eduardo Serra's lush cinematography translating beautifully in the 3D conversion, being subtle at times but adding depth where necessary. The entire film seems so much crisper than Part 1 despite having the same DP, but it also expands upon the scale beyond even the biggest scenes from previous movies. This is especially the case with the siege on Hogwarts, which achieves something on par with "The Lord of the Rings" finale with hundreds of fighting wizards, giants, spiders and an entire army of statue warriors brought to life. It's breathtaking.
There's still a lot of dialogue and exposition scenes in the movie, but they're counterbalanced by equally exciting action scenes, making the pace much more manageable with a structure that creates a film fraught with tension and emotion. Alexandre Desplat's score helps pull every ounce of excitement out of the battle sequences, but also adds a warmth to the more touching moments. It's another brilliant piece of work from a composer who seemingly can do no wrong.
There are so many really nice touches--again, we'd prefer you experience them for yourself--but nearly every character from the series, whether living or dead, is allowed a curtain call and even a few unexpected characters are allowed their moment to shine. It's especially nice seeing mainstays like Warwick Davis getting to actually say lines rather just being part of the background mass of characters in the battle sequences. Even Maggie Smith gets to flex her substantial acting muscles to give her character a grand send-off after taking a step out of the spotlight for the last few films.
But really, this is all about the final confrontation between Harry Potter and his arch-nemesis Voldemort, and that is handled so fantastically and perfectly that nothing else matters.
It's hard to say whether anyone who hasn't seen any of the previous films will get as much out of it, but it's a solid standalone movie in terms of storytelling and filmmaking, standing head and shoulders above the previous films at least going back to Cuaron's installment. One has to give enormous credit to director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves for sticking with it and putting every effort into creating closure to Harry Potter's journey in a way that feels timeless and classic. It's the first "Harry Potter" movie that absolutely and unequivocally deserves any Oscar attention it might get.
The Bottom Line:
Wrapping up the formidable franchise in an incredibly satisfying way that often approaches perfection, to say they've saved the best for last would be an understatement. It's a finale that's truly magical in every way, and easily the best "Harry Potter" movie yet.