Sunday, January 3, 2010

Review: "Sherlock Holmes"

In Middle School, I had a wonderful and brilliant English teacher named Jack Fogarty. Jack taught me how to dissect a novel, interpret symbolism and recognize foreshadowing. He also introduced me to Arthur Conan Doyle's most well-known and most-loved creation, Sherlock Holmes. Hell, it was under his direction that I got my first leading role as an actor playing - you guessed it - Sherlock Holmes. I even became a member of The Baker Street Irregulars.

So you can imagine my dubiousness upon hearing the news that British action director (and former husband of Madonna) Guy Ritchie (Rocknrolla) was going to make a new Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey, Jr. of all people. Not to disparage Downey - he's a brilliant actor (Chaplin, anyone?). But I just couldn't see him as the lanky, heroin-addicted genius. And handsome Jude Law as Dr. Watson? Had the whole world gone mad?

I am happy to say that, going in with very lowered expectations, Ritchie, Downey, Law and company deliver a fun, action-packed and surprisingly reverent movie loaded with humor, romance, bro-mance and thrills.

The story opens with Holmes, Watson and Inspector Lestrad (Eddie Marsand) in pursuit of the evil Lord Blackwood (Ritchie regular, Mark Strong), who is planning to take over the world using ancient mysticism and human sacrifice. After Blackwood is apprehended and executed, he apparently rises from the grave to continue his infernal plan. Holmes soon encounters "the only woman he ever cared about," nefarious American criminal Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), one of the few people to ever outsmart him. She has been hired by a mysterious man to discover the whereabouts of a missing midget who later turns up dead, but who has played an integral part in Blackwood's evil plan.

Incorporating elements of the Doyle stories previously ignored by other Holmes movie directors, Ritchie has made a surprisingly good film. Holmes finally gets to exhibit his prowess in boxing and martial arts, as well his penchant for disguise, while maintaining his genius for observation and scientific curiosity. Shot in sepia tones and infusing a bit of Steampunk sensibility into the Victorian London setting, Ritchie's film captures both the squalor and the promise of Industrial Revolution era London in the early 1900's.

Downey continues to prove he is an acting force to be reckoned with, creating a Holmes that is closer to Doyle's creation than any actor who came before. Gone are the deerstalker cap and Meerschaum pipe (affectations created for the 1940's films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce), replaced by a simple clay pipe and a series of hats Holmes literally steals along the way. Law's Watson is similarly revived; no longer a bumbling side-kick, but a powerful ally and non-blood brother who is probably the only person who truly understands Holmes. Strong is fine as the dashingly handsome (if snaggle-toothed) villain. Fairing not-so-well is McAdams, in a role that could have been played by almost any plucky American actress. The rest of the supporting cast are very good, particularly Marsan as Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade.

Of course, this being a Guy Ritchie film, there are plenty or fights, explosions and big CGI effects, but none of that distracts from the plot. And needless to say, the mysterious stranger is obviously (even for those without Holmes' deductive powers) Professor Moriarity, setting up a sequel quite neatly. And Uncle Prospero will be first in line to see it. I saw Sherlock Holmes with my Dear D, who had a less enthusiastic response, but still said he enjoyed it. Of course, the movie was just icing on our delayed holiday gift exchange. Still, I can't help but recommend this movie, which surpassed my expectations on almost every level. I think Jack Fogarty would agree. *** (Three Out of Four Stars).

More, anon.


Mrs. Pine said...

love the review, and love the new design! ps guess what mrs. pine got for xmas? perhaps her husband's flick on the fabulous dvd? hehe and from our wonderful chauncey, no less...

Anonymous said...

I echo Mrs.Pine's sentiments.
Both Downey and Law appear quite dashing and intelligent. I know I'll love the dog too.
It really looks like an enjoyable movie.

Stephen said...

I will watch RDjr in anything...
my favorite Holmes film is The Seven Percent Solution.

I want to be friends with DearD!