Tuesday, January 12, 2010
So, I finally got around to watching Sherlock Holmes. Yeah, I know, I'm slow. But I watched it. I have to say like many other Holmes fans, I was extremely distraught at the idea of Guy Ritchie's new interpretation of one of the greatest characters in literature. (To be honest, ANY new interpretation would have been disquieting.) Given the movie industry's most recent trends of sensationalized realism in their films, I feared that the new Holmes would be nothing more than a skeleton of the character that I have come to love, if that. As it turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. And I apologize, Mr. Ritchie, for doubting you.
Yes, I liked the movie. I liked it a lot. Overall, I found it engaging, entertaining, and best of all, intellectually stimulating, both in the plot and the execution of that plot. One of the things I found most amazing was how much information Ritchie conveys in this movie. Not a single area of any frame of the film is wasted. In less than five minutes, Ritchie manages to introduce all the major characters, establish their relationships with one another, and lay a surprisingly detailed foundation for the events of the film. With efficiency like that, I wish Ritchie had directed at least two of the Harry Potter films.
In terms of casting, Robert Downey Jr. was a fantastic choice. There are few actors who can combine the necessary traits of charm, detachment, arrogance, insanity, intelligence, and disdain in such form. Downey Jr. flowed through these traits melding them with a touch of irony and sarcasm that made Holmes, the MAN, just as interesting as Holmes, the detective.
Jude Law was also a fantastic selection. Filling the role of Dr. Watson with the character's trademark amiability, increasing intellectualism, and rapier wit, Law is just as much of a joy to watch as his co-star. Law plays off the energy of Downey Jr. with a laid back style that is a perfect counterpoint. Together, they convey the friendship and affection the two characters have for each other beautifully through out the film.
Mark Strong, as the villain of the piece, Lord Blackwood, was fun to watch. Strong gives a nefarious single mindedness to Blackwood, allowing the character to achieve a surprising level of complexity. The influence of his plan, the depth of his manipulations, and his superior grasp of theatricality allow him to be a very believable antagonist to Holmes.
Rachel McAdams, as always, is a pleasure on screen. Unfortunately, her role was short changed in the writing. Irene Adler was the one woman in all of the stories that was intellectually sophisticated enough to not only keep up with Holmes but to actually OUT THINK him. That intelligence was down played in favor of a more romantic relationship which plays well in this new interpretation, but I was looking forward to seeing McAdams display her acting talents with a more cerebral role.
In terms of the new interpretation of Holmes, I think it is a much more realistic vision of him than any other. While it's true that the movie doesn't follow the writings of Conan Doyle to the letter, it does follow the spirit of Holmes. For example, the stories are rife with moments of Holmes bucking the trend by ignoring rank, propriety, and tradition. There are stories were the detective would refuse to take cases brought to him by the highest members of society in favor of more intellectually challenging cases that were presented by commoners. Yet, Holmes has always been portrayed as one of the most proper Englishmen on television. Many a story has Holmes' rooms at 221B Baker St completely unorganized, with paperwork strewn all over the place. Yet, Holmes was always portrayed as a meticulous, and immaculate man. This never made sense to me. In his departure from the accepted, Ritchie has not only breathed new life into Holmes, but also has come closer to what Holmes would have been like in his day.
I also enjoyed the film's vision into the mind of Holmes. In my experience, films have always had difficulty conveying the viewpoint of a genius character. It's only been recently with films like A Beautiful Mind, and tv shows like Numb3rs, that audiences have been given a compelling spotlight into not only how the mind of a genius WORKS, but also how that same genius INTERPRETS the world around them. Now, with "Sherlock Holmes", Guy Ritchie allows us to see the world as Holmes does. Giving us just enough information to follow Holmes, but somehow managing to keep Sherlock 6 or 7 steps ahead. Hearing how Holmes develops his tactics in fighting, seeing the details Holmes observes, and following the reasoning he lays out was a genuine pleasure for me.
All in all, I truly enjoyed this movie. I want to go to the theater and watch it again.