Film

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Director
David Yates
Certificate
12A
Running Time
138 mins

Hogwarts comes over all political and (mildly) saucy in this fifth instalment, which sees the post-pubescent boy wizard getting very cross indeed, with only a pause for a snog, as the series takes a darker turn. Debuting director David Yates rises to the challenge by bringing a little of the grittiness of his TV work (State of Play, Sex Traffic) to bear, inasmuch as this is possible in a world of striking fantasy FX sequences, though his greatest achievement was to turn the longest book into the shortest film.

As so often before, we’re back with the comically odious Dursleys at the beginning of the film. But Yates is quick to stamp his mark with an ominous thunderstorm in a grim urban setting, which looks quite unlike anything we’ve seen previously in Potterworld. This heralds the arrival of a pair of those pesky dementors, leaving Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) with no option but to whip out his wand (the film’s gag, not mine – they’re getting a tad risqué too). Only the personal intervention of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) at Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge’s (Robert Hardy) kangaroo court prevents his immediate expulsion for this crime. But our formerly squitty hero is unable to persuade the complacent Ministry that scary old Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned, and most of the students seem to think he’s telling porkies too. Luckily, Harry’s just been inducted into the secretive ancient Order of the Phoenix – alongside Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Sirius (Gary Oldman) – which has been revived to tackle the Evil One.

Hogwarts is an altogether less comfortable place this time round, riven with distrust and suspicion, and soon to be tainted by death. Luckily, the central trio’s acting chops continue to improve, with Radcliffe proving more than equal to the sulking and shouting demanded of him. But the real star here is newcomer Imelda Staunton as the Ministry-imposed Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge, whose insidious brand of authoritarianism cloaked in pastel-coloured attire and soothing tones must surely have been inspired by New Labour. The only oddity is That Kiss, which seems strangely isolated from the rest of the story.

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By robin askew, Wednesday, Sep 2 2020

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