Much darker than previous films in the Harry Potter franchise, The Order of the Phoenix is an enthralling, atmospheric ride.
The acting from all three leads is notably improved, and Daniel Radcliffe, in particular, seems to have relaxed into the role of Harry, giving a nicely shaded, naturalistic performance. A big part of the thrill of these movies, I've always thought, has been watching the three leads mature over the course of the franchise, both physically and as actors.
During the course of this movie, the fifth, there are some flashbacks to Harry's past, for example, where we see actual footage from earlier films. It's something of a shock to realize that we've watched these three young people grow up on screen.
The adult cast members in Order are uniformly excellent, as always. And it's a treat to see Helena Bonham Carter showing up in the role of Sirius' mad, Death Eater cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange.
The Order of the Phoenix is the most political of the Potter films so far, and indeed, for a children's movie, the film has some distinctly adult themes.
It's somewhat unnerving to recognize, for example, that although the political allegories of the film most closely echo the Nazi regime (from its obsession with pure blood to its use of fear and propaganda to manipulate a population), there are distinct parallels to our world today.
The creeping encroachment on civil liberties in the name of 'protection', the covert (and oftentimes overt) lying by an administration to its people, the use of the media to obscure the truth, the abasement of justice. Ringing any bells?
I left Order of the Phoenix having been thoroughly entertained, but this is the first time a Harry Potter movie has given me any real pause for thought.
Bravo to director David Yates for delivering a smart, enchanting film — and one that is as unsettling as it is enjoyable.