5 January 2010

Letters From The Film Front

Sherlock Holmes - Guy Ritchie

What have we come to expect from Hollywood’s remakes of classic characters? Often we shield our eyes, and close our ears, lest our favourite literary characters be torn asunder by the wham, bam, thank you maam ways of glittering west coast producers. Since this film is full of A list celebrities and a range of window leaping, exploding, punching action you could be expected to write Sherlock Holmes off as bland and unimaginative. But you’d be wrong.

Sure, stuff explodes and they spend a lot of the film talking about magic and the mystery solution is wrapped up in about 2 minutes, but for sheer eccentric, full body acting you cannot beat Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Holmes. Armed with a thick accent and a wardrobe full of white rags, Downey Jr steps into the role of arrogant genius, both flawed with fragility and strengthened by his rationality and plays it throughout. It is however, a shame that Jude Law stepped into the role of John Watson, who, though an excellent foil for Holmes, could have been played by anyone really.

Also disappointing was the epilogue, essentially the ending 10 minutes of the film, which see’s Holmes’ introduction to the malevolent Professor Moriarty (Who became Holmes’ rival throughout the book series). In an industry where sequels seem inevitable, it still seems hackneyed to insist on such a blatant set up and gives the film a clumsy feeling at the finish. Upon leaving the cinema, the feeling of closure that comes with the mystery’s solution fade, only to be left with impatience for the next film which, rather than being titillating, is irritating.

Likewise is the relationship between Holmes and his criminal ex-fiancé (Irene Adler), played by Rachel Mcadams; Once again a character as large and elaborate as Holmes seems to overshadow Adler even more so than Watson, which is unfortunate because her acting (for what the character demands) works.

The jokes, while mainly slapstick or insulting one liners are enhanced by Holmes’ arrogance, and my one complaint is that Downey sometimes speaks his lines so fast it made my brain hurt. The fight scenes are imaginative and, frankly, plentiful. And for what it’s worth, the voice over narration of Holmes’ process made the whole experience believable and human. It allowed for Guy Richie’s fighting, biting Holmes to mix with Conan Doyle’s methodical genius.

Let’s wrap things up. It’s a good film; the acting is carried by Downey Jr, the writing is witty enough to be engaging, and smart enough to feel authentic. It’s no Oscar winner and it won’t make you feel like you’re in Victorian London, but if you fancy a break from vampires in love or blue people at war then it’s a good way to spend an evening.

Rating (if you’re into that kind of thing) – 7.5/10



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