Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Film , Family and kids
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Bringing in Mexican-born Cuarón to replace Chris Columbus for this third installment of the Potter franchise has, on the whole, proved a success. Though flawed, it's the most interesting movie of the three. The subtlety and sympathy Cuarón applied in his excellent Dickens and Frances Hodgson Burnett adaptations (Great Expectations and A Little Princess), he has brought to bear here, with a deeper characterisation of the now adolescent Harry (Radcliffe) and Hermione (Watson), and to a lesser extent their down to earth friend Ron. Where he can, Cuarón refracts the trio's battle with the crazed escaped prisoner Sirius Black (Oldman at his best), and the psychologically threatening aerial ghosts, the Dementors, through the subjective lens of teenage rebellion and its concomitant confusion of identity. Michael Seresin's camera stands further back from the action, and the prudent CGI and special effects (the noble, Pegasus-like Hippogriff; Grim, the omen of Death; the Shrieking Shack) aim to integrate more naturally into the kids' imaginative space. Will Potter fans accept this more reflective, angrier Harry? Gone are the celebratory tuck parties. Gone, too, dear old Richard Harris' paterfamilas, replaced by Gambon's less reassuring Dumbledore; with Thewlis' excellent Prof Lupin providing a new, more fractured father figure. Even the game of Quidditch takes place in the pelting rain, and there, as elsewhere, Cuarón resists the temptation to underline moments of danger, elation or triumph, preferring a more discreet use of soundscape and John Williams' score. Reflecting the darker tone of Rowling's third tome and characterised by its frosted, sombre, gargantuan Dark Forest, compared to its predecessors, this is a more wintry, thoughtful and rewarding movie.

Release details

Rated: PG
Duration: 142 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Screenwriter: Steve Kloves
Cast: Michael Gambon
Gary Oldman
David Bradley
Maggie Smith
Pam Ferris
Emma Thompson
Robbie Coltrane
Rupert Grint
Daniel Radcliffe
Fiona Shaw
Lenny Henry
Emma Watson
Julie Walters
Richard Griffiths
David Thewlis
Alan Rickman
Robert Hardy
Oliver Phelps
Timothy Spall

Average User Rating

4 / 5

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Tara P
Tastemaker

Often cited as the favourite of JK Rowling's boy-wizard series, Prisoner of Azkaban fits the most complexity and interest into the shortest number of pages.

The screen adaptation doesn't disappoint, with Alfonso Cuaron bringing a new approach - slicker, more refined and ultimately more impactful than Columbus's cheery predecessors. Harry is conflicted, haunted by his past and stalked by Azkaban escapee Sirius Black.

The trio have well and truly gelled by now, putting in solid performances. Emma Watson's acting becomes slightly more mature in this installment, though someone could have dropped a word in her ear about her overactive eyebrows.

In all, it's the plot that truly carries this wonderful film, with its exploration of truth, lies, prophecy and most of all, time.