Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 138 mins. Reviewed in Jul 2007
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Rating notes: Moderate themes, stylised violence

This epic is a narrative about the darkness within as much as the darkness without. Harry, now devastatingly good-looking, comes to the screen clad already in an inky cloak. In his mouth are the ashes of death from the year before and ever heavier than this, the burden of destiny riding towards him in the inevitable confrontation with the dark Lord. In this film Harry finds himself not only a channel for the dark forces but also he finds the darkness within himself. Returning to a fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he tries to draw himself apart, keeping his friends clear of the horror to come. But the action of the film shows friends and powerful wizards grasping him back, away from the lonely pinnacle of despair where he would surely be vanquished.

The movie opens in a Lear-like landscape of wintry abandonment. It is the school holidays. Harry sits mordantly watching Dudley, [Harry Melling], and his gang bully children. Nothing new, but this time Harry’s anger boils over. It brings a cataclysm and then Dementors break through the fabric of the Muggle world. Now present in the film world are layers of interwoven evil. The Dementors bring death to the spirit as in his own way does the bully. Then permeating the film is the banal evil of the Ministry of Magic, built from cowardice and hypocrisy. In its effort to control, the Ministry infiltrates Hogwarts through the creepily saccharine Professor Umbridge, [Imelda Staunton], who becomes the new Professor of Defence against the Dark Arts. Dressed all in padded pink and replete with torture pens for writing ‘lines’, she comes to epitomise what is pharasiacal in the Ministry: punishing the innocent, plastering Hogwarts with petty- fogging rules whilst denying the greater threat and, worst of all, boring and patronising the students and crushing the spiritual strength of the school. But these students are no mere ciphers. Each is marked by his own wounds; through the suffering of those who love them they now shape their own destiny and out of their weakness flows strength and grace.

Harry is tortured by recurring nightmares. This is much more than adolescent angst. The pull of evil is close within him and he is fighting for the freedom of his own mind. A darkly beautiful Hermione confronts his moody withdrawal, the only one with the insight to know he needs to bind his strength with that of his friends. It is with the wonderfully fey Luna (Evanna Lynch), who has also been brushed with the wing of death, the utterly wholesome Ron and others that Harry bonds. Gradually his spiritual strength grows. Harry’s followers affirm belief in his truth, following him into danger as he takes on their teaching in a magically provided, purpose-fitted room at Hogwarts. The more he leads, the stronger he becomes, strong enough even for love as he conjures the tracery of mistletoe above Cho San that brings him his first kiss. Sadly Cho is also the one to betray them all. Their classroom tumbles but they are ready to move on.

The great battle of the film is staged in the bowels of the Ministry. Harry and his army enter one of his nightmares. It is a trap. Voldemort, the lethally elegant Lord Malfoy [Jason Isaacs] and Bellatrix LeStrange, [Helena Bonham-Carter], newly escaped from Azkaban, await them as they thread their way through fantastically toppling shelves of glass spheres. Somewhere in all this glass Harry finds his own prophecy. Voldemort seeks to take it. There is deft wand work as the young wizards fight the old. But, though bloodstained and courageous, the young are no match. The bleached and bloodless evil ones are strong. In the end Harry writhes on the floor, hatred ravaging him, struggling to wrest back control over his own mind. In the end it is Sirius Black who intervenes, hurling Voldemort and his cronies away. Though suffering, Harry now sees that he is not alone; that he is free and that the future is yet to be made.

He can now bear his redemptive burden, though always aware of the scale of that awesome task. And though the darkness lowers, grace flows through the wizard world. Individuals like Sirius blaze in grandeur. Imprisoned, abandoned, demonised by his world, half man, half wolf, he lopes a lonely path. Like the star after which he is named, he marks the way to hope.

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