Monday, December 28, 2009
Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes
I managed to sneak in a couple of movies the last few days and I thought I would post my thoughts on the first of which, director Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law. Sherlock Holmes is a very modernized version of the classic literary character based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's series of novels about an increasingly brilliant detective in England who uses his supreme powers of observation to solve crimes. He is ably assisted by Dr. John Watson, a former Army medic and now the partner of Holmes as he investigates cases both private, and for Scotland Yard.
Our film features Robert Downey, Jr as Holmes. In director Guy Ritchie's version Holmes is both a man of superior wit and intellect, as well a seasoned brawler who is always ready for a good fight. Jude Law plays Watson, the long suffering foil to Holmes idiosyncrasies who wants nothing more than to wrap up their final case together and marry his betrothed. Or so he thinks.
As the film opens, Holmes and Watson foil a plot to sacrifice a young girl at the hands of Lord Blackwood (played by a brooding Mark Strong), a noble man and occultist who has been praying on people throughout London. He is captured and sentenced to hang, but not before issuing a warning to Holmes, that more murders would occur. Holmes, undaunted, returns to his home on Baker Street, to find the former love of his life, and the only woman to ever fool him, Irene (Rachel McAdams) waiting for him with a job. Compelled by old feelings, and deeper suspicion, he takes the job, finding out more than he bargained for in the process, including the supposed resurrection of Lord Blackwood and a nefarious plot to paint Holmes as a traitor, if he isn't killed first. As Holmes delves deeper into the mystery, he and Watson uncover a plot designed to attack London at the very core of its government.
Overall, the film is a very fun movie, an exciting Victorian action piece that is sure to alienate Holmes purists, and appeal to more modern cinema goers. The over riding factor in the film is that it is a gritty action take on what is perceived as dull material. Ritchie imbues a sense of dark humor and dirty film making to toughen up the movie. He still manages to preserve Holmes keen detection skills, they are just extrapolated to include a number of other activities, like fighting. By attempting to bridge the old with the new, Ritchie tries to walk a very fine line between camp and seriousness, that I don't think he could have pulled off as well as he did with Downey.
Downey and Law are really the keys to making this work. As Holmes, Downey imparts much of his own pathos into the role, sparking moments of humor and levity with intensity and angst. He takes the material and gives it a life on the screen in such a way that makes you believe in this version of the famous detective. Even Law brings a bit of flavor to Watson, so often portrayed as an overweight sidekick. Here, Watson is the capable military man that more belays his past, and he adds just the right amount of prissy dowdiness to make the character both believable and relatable.
The films sets and costuming are first rate, as well as the visual effects. The team did a great job of making it look like Victorian London and not just a CGI set. The buildings and people had a lived in look, dirty and harsh. Even in the small details, like Holmes pipe or violin, tweaking them to give it just a modern enough flair so as not to appear old fashioned, but to appear proper in the context.
I did have a few complaints with the film though. The script is a loose affair, taking technological leaps of faith with Victorian era capabilities. It also tried very hard to keep the film moving at a quicker pace, though I thought at times the film felt rushed, when simply showing the audience a little bit more of the situation would have gone a long way towards getting a buy in to the script. Especially the final sequence, in which the threat to Parliament takes a huge leap of faith with the capabilities of science at the time.
Another minor complaint I had was with Rachel McAdams. I didn't think she really brought any character to the role, she could have easily been replaced by an number of other attractive actresses. I don't think she is a bad actress by any means and her performance doesn't HURT the movie, it just doesn't bring anything to the table with it either. Still both these complaints should not take away from your enjoyment of the film, its still a very fun popcorn flick.
I can honestly say I liked the film, and I could even see this develop as a new franchise for the studio. I've always liked Guy Ritchie as a director and I especially like that he finally has another hit on his hands. He brings a unique sensibility to his films, movies like Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, are different films. Bringing these edgy "indy" feelings to mainstream studio movies often breathes a new life into flagging franchises. Besides Robert Downey, Jr is on a role right now, with this film and Iron Man 2 coming out soon, he is on fire. All you need to go see this movie is an excuse for a good time, where you can put away all complex thinking and enjoy a fun action movie that does all of the hard thinking for you. Sherlock Holmes is a fun movie, it's really the easiest way to describe the picture.
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