The sixth installment of the Harry Potter series begins right where The Order of the Phoenix left off. The wizarding world is rocked by the news that "He Who Must Not Be Named" has truly returned, and the audience finally knows that Harry is "the Chosen One"--the only wizard who can defeat Lord Voldemort in the end. Dark forces loom around every corner, and now regularly attempt to penetrate the protected walls of Hogwarts School. This is no longer the fun and fascinating world of magic from the first few books—it's dark, dangerous, and scary.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) suspects Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) to be a new Death Eater recruit on a special mission for the Dark Lord. In the meantime, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) seems to have finally removed the shroud of secrecy from Harry about the dark path that lies ahead, and instead provides private lessons to get him prepared. It's in these intriguing scenes that the dark past of Tom Riddle (a.k.a. Voldemort) is finally revealed. The actors cast as the different young versions of Riddle (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and Frank Dillane) do an eerily fantastic job of portraying the villain as a child. While the previous movies' many new characters could be slightly overwhelming, only one new key character is introduced this time: Professor Horace Slughorn (with a spot-on performance by Jim Broadbent). Within his mind he holds a key secret in the battle to defeat the Dark Lord, and Harry is tasked by Dumbledore to uncover a memory about Voldemort's darkest weapon--the Horcrux. Despite the long list of distractions, Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) still try to focus on being teenagers, and audiences will enjoy the budding awkward romances. All of the actors have developed nicely, giving their most convincing performances to date.
More dramatic and significant things go down in this movie than any of its predecessors, and the stakes are higher than ever. The creators have been tasked with a practically impossible challenge, as fans of the beloved J.K. Rowling book series desperately want the movies to capture the magic of the books as closely as possible. Alas, the point at which one accepts that these two mediums are very different is the point at which one can truly enjoy these brilliant adaptations. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is no exception: it may be the best film yet. For those who have not read the book, nail-biting entertainment is guaranteed. For those who have, the movie does it justice. The key dramatic scenes, including the cave and the shocking twist in the final chapter, are executed very well. It does a perfect job of setting up the two-part grand finale that is to follow. --Jordan Thompson