Tribune newspapers -- It takes its time. It has a heavy heart, and a sluggish middle passage. By conventional "wow" standards it offers the least magic and conventional energy of the films so far. ... What works especially well this time? The little things. Alexandre Desplat's musical score is the best of the series so far, never going for bombast when an undercurrent of emotion or menace or comfort will do instead.
Boston Globe -- "Part One'' features the most deliriously inspired moviemaking since "The Prisoner of Azkaban,'' from 2004, but I'm not sure I believe Warner Bros. is ready to part with a franchise that's pulled in the equivalent of the gross domestic product of most of the islands in the Caribbean. ... "The Deathly Hallows'' ends as it begins, in Lord Voldemort's creepy thrall. But the film has enough moments of silence and shots of its three heroes doing nothing so much as looking spiritually put-upon to pass muster at European art houses. On one hand, scenes of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) trekking through the woods and across moors are precious filler. On another, they're daring.
Salon -- The over-under for making sense of "Deathly Hallows" is five. If your consumption of Potter books and movies totals at least that much, and includes one or more iterations of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (sixth in the series), you should be fine. If you lack at least a moderate degree of immersion in the Potter canon, though, then this movie seriously isn't for you. Sure, doing some homework on Wikipedia or fan sites might help, but it's no substitute; you won't greet the members of the extended Weasley family with the same affection, welcome the deus-ex-machina reappearance of the magical elf Dobby with the same joy, or squirm in your seat at the ongoing soul-torment visible within Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape.