I know I am probably very, very late to participate in praising of the newest Harry Potter installment. The reason is that the biggest cinemas in my town had closed down about a year ago, due to renovation. Needless to say, I was completely depressed this summer when Half-Blood Prince came out, since I had nowhere to watch it. Yesterday, my mom (who by the way is another Potterhead) tells me that a small art cinema is playing the movie. It is totally unlike them to play such a commercial flick, but hey, it was good enough for me!
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a complete triumph from start to finish. I am now certain that a Harry Potter movie can't miss the mark - sure, they've experimented with different visual styles and direction, but every single one of these movies I've loved. With the sixth, based on probably the most depressing book in the series, they have taken most liberty with. Scenes are added, certain things are omitted, but it works thanks to the talented people involved. For example, a lot of the movie revolves around Ron and Hermione's flirtatious behavior, and those scenes really showcase the talents of the young actors, who are obviously having a lot of fun in the roles, but never fall into farce. The same goes for the adults, most notably Michael Gambon in the role of Dumbledore. He completely understands this character and plays him in a detailed and controlled manner.
Finally, the direction is perfect. David Yates, the director of both Order and Prince seems to really understand that what holds these movies together and ensures their popularity is the human factor. Special effects, magical monsters and enchanted locations look wonderful, but are not a challenge. And in the very first shot of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Harry is being photographed by paparazzi, Yates is smart enough to subtly focus on Dumbledore's hand on Harry's shoulder. If this isn't a great movie, I don't know what is.