I have now arrived at the 6th movie in my retrospective on the Harry Potter movies. It’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The ending in particular packs quite an emotional wallop. So spoilers ahead!
The movie opens on a somber note as Death Eaters (minions of Lord Voldemort) are seen attacking London’s Millennium Bridge. Both the wizard and Muggle worlds are under attack. Following right where Order of the Phoenix left off, Lucius Malfoy is disgraced and in Azkaban prison due to his involvement with the Death Eaters. His son, Draco (Tom Felton) is giving a secret mission by Voldemort. Draco’s mother gets Snape (Alan Rickman) to protect Draco and carry out the mission should anything go wrong. Snape is rumored to have been a mole in the Order of the Phoenix, informing on Dumbledore to Voldemort.
As another semester at Hogwarts begins, there is a new potions professor: Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). When Harry and Ron get their potions text books, Harry’s are filled with helpful notes from someone known as the Half-Blood Prince. The notes allow Harry to excel in the class and impress Slughorn. One day in potions, Harry wins a vial of Liquid Luck potion.
Dumbledore reveals to Harry that one of the reasons he hired Slughorn was because he has a memory relating to Voldemort that is needed in their quest to defeat the Dark Lord. Dumbledore has a version of the memory, but it has been altered. Why? Slughorn feels guilty about not stopping Tom Riddle (a young Voldemort) when there were signs he was headed to be a dangerous wizard when Slughorn had him as a student.
Harry uses the Liquid Luck to get Slughorn to give him the real memory. He succeeds. In the memory, Tom Riddle asks about Horcruxes. Horcruxes allow a wizard to divide their soul into seven pieces by putting them in inanimate objects. It allows the wizard to be immortal. Harry even destroyed one already: Tom Riddle’s diary in Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore and Harry set out to retrieve and destroy the other Horcruxes. In the process of getting Slytherin’s locket in a seaside cave, Dumbledore is forced to drink poison (he has to drink it to get at the locket).
Dumbledore apparates them back to Hogwarts. But he is weakened from the poison. After arriving back at Hogwarts, a number of Death Eaters arrive via a Vanishing Cabinet courtesy of Draco Malfoy. It’s revealed that Draco’s mission is to kill Dumbledore. But Draco just can’t do it. Dumbledore asks Snape to kill him, this ending his pain. Snape honor’s his request, enraging Harry. When Harry attempts to pursue Snape, it’s revealed that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince. The Death Eaters escape and Hogwarts holds a funeral for Dumbledore.
Half-Blood Prince is a return to form after the uneven but enjoyable Order of the Phoenix. What I appreciated the most was how front and center the friendship of Harry and Dumbledore was. This is some of the best acting by Daniel Radcliffe and Michael Gambon in the whole series. And they’ve been solid throughout. My heart broke when Dumbledore was killed off. It was just like when I read the scene in the book.
I want to again credit Alan Rickman for being the pitch perfect Snape. There are so many layers to the character. And Rickman is able to tell us just what we need to know at just the right time as the series progresses. It’s masterful acting without being showy.
Where would I rank this one in the whole series? Ahead of Order of the Phoenix but after Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ll give my whole list after Deathly Hallows.