Jan 11, 2010

[Movies] Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Sherlock HolmesWhen you think of Sherlock Holmes, an image is bound to appear in your head of a tall lanky man with a pipe accompanied by a somewhat rounder, shorter fellow with a thick mustache. You know what I mean right - can you see it in your mind now? Yes, that's the classic Sherlock Holmes concept we've been indoctrinated with ever since we were young whether this be in the form of illustrations in books or depictions in cartoons and TV movies.

It's both refreshing and risky to try and change the image of such cultural icons, especially for the shallow purposes of a Hollywood movie, and yet it happens time and time again. Results are quite mixed and one can only hope to get something really good out of it. This doesn't mean all is lost given the circumstances - there are some novel re-imaginings and re-interpretations of classic stories that have been rather entertaining, to say the least.

At first I wasn't looking forward to this movie and was quite skeptical about it being any good. It was quite nice to be surprised and proven rather wrong.

Sherlock Holmes is yet another adaptation of the classic detective stories created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At the helm of this tale as director was Guy Ritchie (of Snatch fame and Swept Away infamy), which seemed an unusual choice for me when I first heard about the production.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 17:  (L-R) Director Guy Ri...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The movie begins with Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) on their last case together since Watson is engaged to be married and has plans of quitting the consulting detective business. The case involves a series of murders and strange occult practices by Lord Blackwell (Mark Strong). They apprehend him and 3 months later he is executed, only to somehow rise from the dead and strike terror once more in 1891 London. At the same time, Holmes is approached by THE Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), whom many Holmes fans will recognize as "the woman" often mentioned in his stories, asking for his help to find a man somehow connected to the supposed resurrection of Lord Blackwell. Thus the case unfolds and Holmes does his best to solve it before more die at the hands of Blackwell while trying to come to terms of Watson's inevitable departure from 221B Baker Street.

If you've seen the trailers, then you would have gotten the same odd vibe that I did. The movie initially appears to be very...action-ish. In other words, it really does feel like a Guy Ritchie movie, which is a concept that is hard to square off against the intellectual pursuit that is Sherlock Holmes. A lot of people are bound to enter the theater expecting a violent action movie and to some extent they'll get this. Fortunately, that's not all they'll get.

The movie does have its fair share of intellectual moments and the whole plays out like a Sherlock Holmes mystery from start to finish. You have all the smaller clues leading to intermediate resolutions with others still left on the back burner, only to become truly useful at the end of the movie during the big reveal. This is all captured through the eyes of Sherlock Holmes as his attention literally zooms in on vital clues but this doesn't necessarily coddle the viewer with explaining why the clues are important right away.

The actors were pretty good in their roles. Downey did an excellent Sherlock, even capturing the nuances of his quirks and really trying to embody the role of this brilliant mind who notices practically everything and thus seems a little off the rocker. They even touched on his tendencies to indulge in exotic substances to help his thinking, which I felt was a key element in defining him. Jude Law was simply charming as Watson and the two had some really great banter on-screen. Yes, this is the age of the bromance I suppose. McAdams was a decent Adler although some felt she could have been mode seductive while others felt she could have been more intellectual. Ah well.

Sherlock Holmes is simply entertaining. It's not too heavy on the mystery side nor does it overindulge in the action and wanton violence. It's not the greatest movie to come along in recent months but it is a great way of bringing the Sherlock Holmes mythos into the modern age.

Sherlock Holmes gets 4 red-haired midgets out of 5.

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