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Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

* * *

Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

Sherlock Holmes was one of the films that I was most looking forward to in 2009 and yet I somehow managed to not get around to seeing it until just recently. I blame that on end of the year good movie oversaturation, which is when as much as you want to see a certain film, you've spent so much time in the theater lately that the absolute last thing you want to do is go to the theater. Why can't decent movies be released throughout the whole year? Is it so much to ask?

Right, anyway. Sherlock Holmes, starring the increasingly awesome Robert Downey Jr., was pretty much exactly what I'd been expecting: a fun, fast moving film with plenty of gritty charm. Downey plays Holmes and Jude Law plays his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson, though as the film begins their partnership is in the midst of being dissolved. Watson is engaged and has every intention of extricating himself from Holmes' bad influence, but Holmes won't let him go and pretty much acts like Watson's fiancee has just stolen his boyfriend. The undercurrent of homoeroticism between Holmes and Watson is played up by Downey and Law and though that apparently ticked off Sir Arthur Connan Doyle's estate, it's also one of the things that makes this film so particularly delightful.

The actual plot of the film involves the mysterious Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who appears to have risen from the grave and threatens to take over the world with his mastery of the dark arts. It also involves Holmes' nemisis/love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who has made her way back into Holmes' life at the behest of a shadowy figure whose identity should be obvious to anyone even vaguely familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories, and who will likely be the driving force in the inevitable sequel.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film explodes with bursts of kinetic energy in a series of solid action sequences. On a couple of occassions he slows down the action and allows Holmes to narrate, step-by-step, how he's going to come out the victor and then showing us the sequence again but sped up. It's a good strategy because Holmes is a character defined more by logic than by brawn and these sequences allow him to explain how even when things are getting physical, he's still proceeding in a methodically logical way towards the best possible conclusion (for him anyway; it doesn't work out so well for the guys he beats up). All in all, Ritchie and Downey do an excellent job at defining Holmes as a character, even though two of the character's more famous features (the deerstalker hat and "Elementary, my dear Watson") have been dropped.

The film doesn't run particularly deep (not that I was expecting it to; this is a Guy Ritchie movie, after all) but it's flashy and entertaining enough to keep that from really being an issue. It has great energy and the performances by the three leads are quite winning. The only real issue that I have with it is that it goes to such great lengths to set up the sequel that I half expected the words "to be continued..." to pop up right before the credits. It kind of left me with the feeling that Sherlock Holmes was more of a trial run and that the real movie will be the follow-up.


M. Carter @ the Movies said...

I'd follow Robert Downey Jr. to the ends of the earth, so of course I knew I'd like him in "Sherlock Holmes." And I did because he's always struck me as a very shrewd, quick-thinking man who can pick out people's tells and use them to his advantage. Essentially, that's who Sherlock Holmes was as well. And I liked the action-heavy take -- it's not something you'd expect of a Holmes film.

Norma Desmond said...

This version is definitely a different take on it then you'd normally see, which I suppose is why it feels to fresh.