Warner Bros. Pictures
Opens on 11 July 2007 nationwide

Movie 5. Book 7. It’s all coming at once. There has been so much hype surrounding the summer of Harry Potter, that expectations are ridiculously high. In this fifth installment of the film series, director David Yates (HBO’s “The Girl in the Café” / also set to direct the next film) takes audiences through the dark journey that begins as Lord Voldemort’s forces of evil attack Muggles and Wizards alike. Harry’s obnoxious cousin, Dudley, has grown to be quite the tall fellow since we last saw him. As he picks on Harry in a park near Privet Drive, clouds gather and dementors swoop down from the storm to attack the two boys, who narrowly escape as Harry is forced to use magic to protect himself. It is a very promising start to this dark chapter that takes our heroes to the streets of London and back to Hogwarts where the Ministry of Magic has appointed a High Inquisitor to squelch rumours or the Dark Lord’s return. Imelda Staunton takes on that role of Dolores Umbridge, and plays it to white-knuckled perfection. More than once, I had flashbacks to my own creepy experiences in parochial school. Her actions force the students to take matters into their own hands, and practice magic and defense against the dark arts on the sly. It’s a great part of the Potter story, and features some amazing work. For one, Daniel Radcliffe as our lead shows us new depth to his acting as he takes the reigns over the dark world around him. The production design is magnificent and the sound design is even better. Story-wise, technically and acting-wise, it is an amazing feat. The pacing of this film, sadly is not. At two hours, eighteen minutes, it is the shortest one thus far, but feels like the longest. If we were having a marathon and watching the films all the way through, the deliberate building of the tension would work splendidly, but as a stand-alone story, the very long middle section doesn’t work up to the crescendo of its finale, but rather cuts directly to it. I will always root for Potter, on the page or on the screen, but this installment, however dark and masterful makes me fidgety. And not in a good way.