Director: David Yates Release Date: 15/07/09 Link: IMDB A Balanced, Faithful Potter Adaptation After the overly-compressed and ultimately dissapointing fifth Harry Potter film, I was not terribly content with director David Yates. He was no David Lean in his treatment of the epic, brilliant source material (not that they should really channel Laurence of Arabia, but the film felt ultra-condensed). However, I am proud to inform you that Yates has taken a step in the absolutely right direction; with the Half-Blood Prince, Yates has created a perfect mixture of tone, story, humor, and action, all distinct and important elements of Rowling's novels. Not overly moody like the book had the tendency to be ("Sirius Black is dead!" Harry would repeatedly lament in one form or another), the film uses visual contrast and well-placed comic relief to establish a tone that is more faithful to the ultimate tone of Rowling's novels. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel creates some absolutely beautiful imagery around the castle in contrast with often dark skies to create a sense of imbalance. Although grey is the color which most readily comes to mind, there are some very warm colors thrown into the fray. In addition, Hogwarts is shot more widely, making the halls and grounds feel bigger which, consequently, intensifies the sense of paranoia and urgency that is so prevalent in the story. You see, Harry returns to his sixth year at Hogwarts in the midst of what is a new war of the wizards. Voldemort is hiding out, but his Death Eaters are carrying out his wishes, the first of which is to break into Hogwarts. What they will do there and how they will get there, only Harry and friends can speculate. Add this tension into the mix with the usual teenage drama that will inevitably happen, teenage or not, and you get yourself one stressed out group of young wizards and witches. Yates does a good job at cutting the pork out of the story and maintaining (and staying true to) the important details. Perhaps the mistake I made before seeing the 5th movie was reading the book right before watching the movie (I was re-reading the series for the impending 7th book at the time), but the story in this movie felt more effortlessly told - the essentials are there and there is not the feeling that a lot is being left out. However, despite all the drama, there is an impressively executed and well-placed sense of humor in this film. When I was younger, my mom would always remark how much I would laugh while reading the books (I probably still do) and the Rowling brand of comedy is skillfully transferred into The Half-Blood Prince - my friends and I laughed throughout (sometimes at remarks we would make to each other). There is a really hilarious scene in which Harry takes an elixir of luck and Radcliffe skillfully (in other words, not over-the-top which would have been easy) plays a basically high Harry. He is giggly, happy, and jumpy. There are other very funny moments, such as Luna Lovegood's Lady GaGa-esque Christmas gown, Ron's obsessive girlfriend, and typical interaction between the three leads. Speaking of which, something hit me while watching the movie - the acting is really good. This is in part testament to the director and casting crew, but a lot of credit is due to the actors. Radcliffe is really a talented actor, and Emma Waton and Rupert Grint have both come to an impressive ability to blend comedy and drama. I thought about how much a crapshoot it must have been, just about ten years ago, casting young children who would grow up with the role and maybe or maybe not end up being good actors/actresses. There is a big difference between being able to play 11-year-old Hermione and 16-year-old Hermione and the three leads have come into their respective roles quite nicely. In addition, the adult cast is just great. Alan Rickman continues to be one of my favorite actors, making a line like "Mr. Potter" a symphony. His moments are sublime and the understanding that Rickman conveys is brilliant. Helena Bonham Carter really lets loose with this movie and her scenes are deliciously twisted, while the actress who was originally cast as Bellatrix Lestrange (Helen McCrory) is now playing Narcissa Malfoy. The scene between her and Rickman in the beginning contains some really excellent acting. Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent (hilarious), and Julie Walters all do expectedly excellent jobs with their roles. As the action unfolds, the movie feels just long enough and the balance is spot-on. Screenwriter Steve Kloves spreads out the action sequences, each one building on the next. There is one scene outside the Weasley's that is shot geurilla style which really adds to the tension and another scene in a cave with fireballs that would make Michael Bay weep. It's this balance that I keep mentioning, this equilibrium which makes the sixth movie of this series the best. I can't say it was my favorite book (Harry was too winey), but it was, in fact, better than even Alfonso Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban. If you are fan of the Potter series, book or film, or if you just like well-crafted stories, I would recommend that you go out and see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Rating: 9/10