Monday, 1 February 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)


Plot Summary: Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England.

It’s been a long while since Sherlock Holmes has graced our screens and the nature of his return (or ‘reboot’ to use the popular term) seemed at first determined to shake as many apple carts as possible. Casting an American as the long-beloved English lead? Choosing Guy Richie, famous for depicting hyper-fast gangster violence and foul-mouthery, as director? Turning Holmes into a ‘kick-ass, ask questions later’ action hero? These risks, however, pay off in spades as the new Sherlock Holmes film manages to find the perfect balance between the traditional mystery investigations and Victorian London locales of old while injecting a new sense of humour and action into the mix.

The key to Sherlock Holmes's success lies in the depiction of, and chemistry between, Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as John Watson. Both actors do their roles more than justice, with Downey Jr. in particular bringing to the role a slacker playfulness, not seen before in previous Holmes incarnations, while still managing to convince the audience of his brilliance as a detective (and of his English accent). The banter between the two actors is witty and thoroughly enjoyable; it’s enough to make you believe the two have known each other as long as their fictional counter-parts. Meanwhile Guy Richie manages to rein in his usual kinetic style of film-making just enough as to not disrupt the tone of the film and still keep it visually interesting enough.

The action is exciting and shot well without going too overboard, while the slow-motion breakdowns of Holmes’s fight moves are especially impressive. Additional, as with Lock, Stock and RockNRolla before it, Sherlock Holmes continues Richie’s love-affair with his hometown by depicting a truly alive Victorian London via an authentic combination of period sets and striking CGI backgrounds. The only elements that let the film down are drawn-out pacing and a less-than threatening villain. The film has so much to set up and takes so long doing so that towards the end the pace starts to lag and you may find yourself wondering which scene will be the last, especially as the ending is more than predictable. Mark Strong, meanwhile, does a competent job as the evil Lord Blackwood but isn’t particularly memorable and never poses much of a threat to Holmes. Ultimately, however, Sherlock Holmes feels like a breath of fresh air for a somewhat dated franchise and provides a highly entertaining cinema-going experience.

Final Verdict: 7/10

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