Pottermania reaches a crescendo with this taut and thoughtful final installment in the impressive "Harry Potter" film franchise. And they saved the best for last. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" caps the series with visual panache and emotional punch. It's a fitting finale to an unparalleled cinematic accomplishment.
The wizarding world has taken a dark turn as the vile Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) makes a final violent push for complete dominion. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two steadfast companions, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), set out to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes (magical items that empower Voldemort).
Their perilous quest leads them to a vault at Gringotts Wizarding Bank, a hitched ride aboard an angry dragon and a meeting with Aberforth Dumbledore (Ciaran Hinds), brother of murdered Hogwarts school headmaster Albus. Meanwhile, Voldemort and his band of maniacal Death Eaters, including the ruthless Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), prepare for a full-fledged assault on Hogwarts.
Director David Yates (who also helmed the previous three Potter films) and his filmmaking team treat this final Potter flick as something of a cherished child. Deep consideration for the characters and meticulous attention to detail permeate nearly every frame. The production values are exceptional, from the eye-popping visual effects to the striking set design and cinematography.
The actors give it their all as this mighty chapter in their lives comes to a close. Radcliffe lends Harry just the right balance of dread and daring; Grint has turned the once-skittish Ron into an admirable hero; and Watson serves up an emotionally sincere portrayal. The truth about enigmatic wizard Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) finally comes to light in harrowing fashion, and Rickman delivers with thespian prowess.
Some scenes border on brilliant, such as a powerful flashback involving Harry's mother, Lily, and Snape. The film's tension is thick and infectious, though humor occasionally (and gracefully) interjects. And secondary characters (especially Neville Longbottom, played by Matthew Lewis) shine when given the chance.
Flaws are harder to catch than a Golden Snitch, although occasional lulls in the otherwise consistent pacing, and a not-quite-right denouement, are apparent. There is something a bit melancholy about the viewing experience as each passing minute gets the audience closer to the end of an era. In some ways it's cathartic. Harry, Ron and Hermione have grown and matured right in front of us, and their final moments are also their most profound.