Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer(s): Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham
Cinematography: Philippe Rousselot
Original Score: Hans Zimmer
Running Time: 128 Mins.
The most surprising thing about Sherlock Holmes is that it has taken so long for the eponymous detective to return to the silver screen, yes, there have been a couple of BBC adaptations starring Richard’s E. Grant and Roxburgh successively donning the deer-stalker and Ian Hart as Watson, both were rather lacklustre and cried out for some hollywood sheen, a few names became attached including at one stage Nell Marshall as director upon Warner’s acquiring the rights to the character, however post making Rock n’ Rolla a mild hit for the studio true cockney geezer Guy Ritchie was passed the reins and fast secured Hollywood’s current hottest star Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes.
The role of Watson took a little longer with stars as diverse as Russell Crowe and Jason Statham (thank god that didn’t happen!) mentioned, but eventually Jude Law was settled upon. A choice that I, and many others, were less than impressed with, due to then hugely irritating level of smugness he all too often exudes.
But it is in this casting that proves Sherlock Holmes trump card, as the praise I am compelled to shower on the film is bookended by two of the years best performances (in terms of pure enjoyment) and most certainly the best example of the buddy film in quite some time. Many had grievance with the first glimpse of the films trailer with slo-mo, of which Ritchie can use a little too vapidly at times in his past films, the fact that this slo-mo was employed during scenes of Holmes boxing of all things seemed to set alarm bells ringing. As it is the slo-mo is there for a reason and that reason is to give us the best example yet of how Holmes mind works.
Therein lies yet another of the films great achievements, this is not simply about a man with extraordinary detective skills, no, Holmes is man with a very set way of thinking, eccentric yet brilliant, with major flaws, those that we are aware of from the novels are present yet not hammered home to the point that they become an issue, while Downey Jr. plays the part to perfection. Even his accent stands up to scrutiny, to say the man is on of the most versatile around is to be honest something of an understatement, yes he has his trademark fast talking that occasionally would benefit from subtitles but it fits the character so well, Holmes IS a man who veers from one emotion to the next, rashly and without any warning, a loose cannon as it were.
As Watson though Jude Law seems to have harnessed the annoyances that have plagued his career thus far, toning down the smugness and proving, literally, the perfect foil for Holmes. Theres is a relationship that whole-heartedly embraces “bromance”, though it seems that just to make sure the idiots in the audience didn’t realise the relationship goes no further than that of a deep friendship they are both saddled with a romantic interest. I say saddled but once again both female leads (Reilly and McAdams) are impeccably cast and given ample story arcs with McAdams in particular proving a great foil for Holmes, if swimming in the cliché femme fatale pool occasionally but nowhere near enough to irk.
If there is a weakness it is in the slightly two-dimensional villain, Mark Strong does the best he can given his handful of scenes but the focus here is more on establishing Homes and Watson’s relationship and how Homes mindset works as opposed to the overarching plot. Good enough then, but leaves you feeling that the, hopefully, inevitable sequel will satisfy in the only slightly lacking area.
That said I cannot recommend Sherlock Holmes enough, Ritchie’s direction is hugely dynamic with some of the very best use of effects to compliment, rather than showcase, the plot all year and some of the shots including, in my opinion, the years best opening scene should shake all the disbeliever’s as to Ritchie’s talents to direct something of substance as well as handling a budget in the best possible way, something which a lot of this years blockbuster directors have tried, and failed, to do.
Sherlock Holmes holds many pleasant surprises, Ritchie is a great action director, Law is capable of being likeable, while confirming Downey jr. is more than capable of carrying not one, but two franchises, and dare I say it this might just be the better of the two. Quite simply the years most entertaining blockbuster.