After nearly ten years and seven films that range from good to great, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 had a lot to live up to in
concluding the beloved story of The Boy Who Lived.  But in the hands of director David Yates, writer Steve Kloves, and the incredible cast
and crew, this final entry is a success; and a rousing one at that.

Picking up exactly where Part 1 left off, Part 2 finds our heroes battered and beaten down by their quest to locate and destroy Lord
Voldemort’s horcruxes.  Each horcrux contains a piece of Voldemort’s soul, and he cannot be defeated while they survive.

Unlike the somber and deliberately paced Part 1 however, this film is an action thriller from beginning to end.  From the first major set piece
on (A wizardly heist of Gringotts Bank- one of the many callbacks to the early films), Deathly Hallows Part 2 is constantly moving and
consistently thrilling.

What makes this film so special is that amid the technical marvels and spectacle it never loses its characters in the process.  As battles
rage on through the window and in the background, the film is always about Harry and his friends’ fight to resist the evil that threatens to
consume them.

This is easily the most emotional of the films.  Every loss is crushing and every small victory uplifting.

There is an incredible and heartbreaking sequence that reveals many of the deepest secrets of the series along with the truth behind one
of its most mysterious supporting characters.  It’s beautifully directed, edited, acted and just the beginning of the powerful dramatic punch
this film delivers, even to someone who knew exactly what was going to happen.

This also leads to Harry himself finally realizing the full weight and burden of his quest.  When Harry walks through Hogwarts’ Great Hall (a
place once the epitome of the series’ enthusiasm and fun) to find it littered with the true cost of his resistance, it’s absolutely wrenching.

Daniel Radcliffe is magnificent in these sequences.  He plays Harry with such vulnerability and introspection that we come to realize that
this is not a superhero, nor an action hero, but a young man who must make the ultimate sacrifice because it is the right thing to do.  Harry
is a great character because of his inabilities.  One of the primary themes in the series is that it’s our choices, not our abilities that define
us.  Radcliffe perfectly conveys the reluctant hero and his performance is genuinely moving in its subtle determination.

As always, the rest of the cast is superb as well.  Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as Ron and Hermione are as good as always and Ralph
Fiennes is as disturbingly evil a villain you could ever hope for.

The rest of the returning supporting cast each get a nice sendoff for their dedication to the series, even when their characters were merely
there to be there much of the time.

Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape is a different matter, however.  He takes center stage in one of the film’s most memorable sequences.  
Rickman gets a rare chance to show real emotion this time and his lack of it in the entirety of the series makes his performance all the more

And the film is just as accomplished technically as it is dramatically.  The seamless and spectacular visual effects are energetically directed
by David Yates, who showcases his formidable visual style once again.  Eduardo Serra’s cinematography is dark and foreboding and
beautiful (and too good to be wasted on the reportedly horrible 3D conversion) and Stuart Craig’s production design is impressive as usual.

Perhaps the most credit of all should go to writer Steve Kloves, who was consistently brilliant throughout the series in adapting J.K.
Rowling’s work for the screen.

It’s incredibly rare to see a film that is such a wonderful marriage of action and drama.  Not since The Return of the King have I experienced
such a thrilling and emotionally satisfying conclusion.

The only minor misstep of the film is really in including a couple bits of side story that aren’t fully developed and will probably only serve to
confuse those unfamiliar with the book.  The brief mention of Dumbledore’s sister, for instance, probably should have been either excised
completely or better explained.  But in the end this amounts to only a few minutes of the well-edited machine that is this movie.

I also wouldn’t necessarily count Alexandre Desplat’s score as a negative, but effective as it may be in a few moments, it feels like we
should have gotten something more memorable for this grand conclusion.  It is nice, however, that the score pays a bit more respect to
John Williams’ now classic themes than previous entries.  Fans of the maestro will definitely smile hearing the cue chosen for the film’s

Some might find these final sequences a bit anticlimactic, but I think they serve as a perfectly subtle and understated goodbye to our
understated hero and his equally beloved friends.

It’s hard to imagine a series ever doing what Harry Potter has done again - Eight genuinely good films, a cast that grew up and honed their
craft in front of our eyes, a director’s seat that changed hands almost as often as the defense against the darks arts post and as stunning
and satisfying a conclusion as we could possibly hope for.  Even though it started as a series of books, the Harry Potter films are perhaps
even more impressive than its source material because of all this.

These movies didn’t just make me a fan of Harry Potter; they made me a bigger fan of film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a phenomenal film.  It’s an incredible, visually-stunning thriller and a powerful and heartfelt
piece of dramatic storytelling.  As sad as I am to see this series come to end, what a thrill it is to see it end with such skill and class.

* * * *
(out of four)

Directed by: David Yates

Written by: Steve Kloves

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson,
Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman

Cinematography by: Eduardo Serra

Music by: Alexandre Desplat

Released: July 15, 2011; 130 Minutes