Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes



Earlier in the year I wrote this highly indignant blog entry in response to a just-released trailer of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes film. In it, I pretty much railed against what I'd perceived as a great departure from the source material I'd grown up reading.

Well, I'm here to eat some crow and admit that I was dead wrong! Ritchie's latest flick is in fact a perfectly serviceable homage to both the literary canon of Holmesian lore, as well as the more successful television, film, and stage productions of the past. I'm going to have to look it up, but after watching this film I'm starting to wonder if perhaps the ex- Mr. Madonna might not in fact be an honorable Sherlockian. Such is the loving care with which he treats the characters and milieu of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest creation.

True, there are perhaps a little too many modern affectations thrown in to qualify this as an authentic period piece (for one, Watson constantly refers to himself as a "doctor" rather than a physician), but one learns to quickly roll with these few lapses and simply enjoy the film for what it is. Which is, to wit, a darn rollickin' good detective caper filled with surprises, plot twists, and wonderfully intellectual reveals that satisfies both the educated and non-indoctrinated Holmes fan alike!

I specifically want to praise Robert Downey, Jr. for a surprisingly adept rendering of the Holmes character. I was extremely skeptical before tonight, but now I'm a believer! He was almost spot-on, surpassing all but the late great Jeremy Brett as the most pitch-perfect Holmes I've seen. Only a few quibbles here and there knock him down a notch or two, primarily his short stature and permanently grizzled cheeks and chin. But, big deal. The attitude, quick-witted dialogue, and constant needling of Watson all live up to the Holmes I know and love.

I won't go into much detail regarding the rest of the cast, except to say that they were serviceable. Mark Strong as the villain Lord Blackwood was woefully one-dimensional but served a certain end, while Rachel McAdams was cute and lively, but sometimes a little *too* modern in portrayal compared to the character taken from one of Sir Doyle's classic Holmes' tales. Jude Law as Watson is the only really memorable performance besides Downey's, playing Watson exactly as he was always meant to be: A well-balanced foil to Holmes's relentless and acerbic repartee. Kudos to Law for bringing just the right amount of charm and humor to a role many before him have tragically played too stiff and proper. Sure, he could've been a bit shorter, older, and walking with a limp -- but that's nitpicking.

As someone well-versed in the literature, I was also delighted by all the inside nods and references the director peppers throughout the film--Watson's impending marriage; a certain female somebody from Holmes's past; and even the deft set-up of his nefarious nemesis, Prof. Moriarty--which helps solidify this movie as one of the better treatments of the famous super sleuth ever seen on the big screen.

Yeah, I am not being superfluous here, believe it or not. If it wasn't for how much I adore Ritchie's earlier works--particularly Snatch--I would dare venture the verdict that this is his finest film yet.

Aw hell, I *will* say it! This is Guy's masterpiece!

My only fear is that, given the way things comes to an end setting up for an obvious sequel or two, that Mr. Ritchie may not in fact come back to continue what he has started. Oh please let this not be so. As good as this outing was, I can only imagine the awesomeness of what would ensue if we got to see the world's greatest detective battle against the most brilliant criminal mastermind of the Victorian age. That's a showdown I would pay big bucks to see directed, but only in Guy Ritchie's more than capable hands.

Rating:  8.5/10

5 comments:

cindy said...

so glad you were won over, purist and all!! i loved it!

David Batista said...

I know, I was shocked! Wasn't expecting it. I knew it would be entertaining because it is Guy Ritchie's film after all. But I was surprised my how much he really didn't stray from the source. Also, Baker Street looked almost exactly as it looked on the famous Grenada U.K. telvision series! Which was a thrill for me.

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buddy2blogger said...

Always a pleasure to meet a Sherlockian!

I too was not sure about Downey Jr as Holmes. I liked the first movie, but just loved the second movie. Jared Harris gave the definitive performance as Prof Moriarty.


Check out my review .

Cheers!

David Batista said...

Wow, I completely forgot I'd written this review. I've seen the second film, of course, and actually enjoyed it EVEN MORE than the first. If that's even possible to believe. I think you're right: Jared Harris was just fantastic! That scene above the Falls was just beyond epic. The stuff of legend, in fact. I went to see the movie twice in theaters for that showdown between Holmes and Moriarty alone. Great fun!

Thanks for visiting my blog. I'll head on over and read your review now, Buddy.

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