Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

Year: 2009
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong

And so I begin the new year on this blog a little late with a review on Sherlock Holmes, the world's most famous detective, at least before Batman.

This film adaptation on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic character begins with Holmes (Downey Jr) and his trusty sidekick/best friend Dr Watson (Law) rescuing a young woman from being sacrificed in a deadly ritual by Lord Blackwood (Strong). Blackwood is sentenced to the gallows, but before he is executed, he warns Holmes that he will come back from the dead and kill three more people.

And unfortunately, that's exactly what happens.

So Holmes and Watson set off once more on the case, following clues and fighting bad guys along the way. Holmes faces an obstacle in the form of Irene Adler (McAdams), who has her own agenda regarding Blackwood.

Plotwise, it doesn't sound like much, does it? But Guy Ritchie makes it all work. How? Well, it's simple. Focus on the leads. Update the settings. And make it fun. And voila, we have a winner.

Ritchie makes up for the scarce plot by keeping the audience entertained throughout. First, he makes Holmes a likeable guy, not by picturing him as a debonair detective with English manners, but a roguish man with sharp one-liners. Then, Ritchie makes it contemporary by inserting several action sequences and some nice explosions and crashes, stuff you wouldn't expect to see in Victorian era England. Finally, put in some neat touches, like Holmes' superbly accurate perception of things and his ability to deduce the hows and whys of a crime, played back before or after it happens. All this work in unison to ensure the film stays sharp and funny throughout.

Downey Jr brings his surefire charm to the lead role and pulls it off splendidly, though his British accent isn't perfect. Jude Law on the other hand is brilliant as Watson, who acts as the perfect foil to Holmes, Holmes being the rebel with no boundaries, and Watson as the logic and reason. Downey and Law have great chemistry together, as if their characters have known each other for years, thus successfully bringing their 19th century bro-mance to life. McAdams is almost forgettable as Irene, the sneaky romantic interest to Holmes who eventually becomes the damsel in distress. Mark Strong is wasted as the villain here, we barely see him on screen long enough to acknowledge him.

Kudos must also be given to the production team for creating old London beautifully. It is shot in detail and given a grey hue to suit the time and mood of the era. There's also a fine CGI action sequence atop the incomplete London bridge at the film's climax, nicely done as well.

All in all, a great film adaptation of the world's finest sleuth, and a sequel is sure to follow. (4/5)

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