A blog about movies and filmmaking.

It’s elementary…

In action on December 21, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Guy Ritchie has been a slightly over-rated director since his debut with LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING BARRELS. This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed all of his movies – well, alright, I never saw SWEPT AWAY, and don’t really care to – just that he’s someone whose style has superceded anything else taking precedence, like story. He’s had a knack for picking visually interesting actors and characters; great action scenes (I still love the jogging chase scene in Rock-n-Rolla).

But, with his new movie, SHERLOCK HOLMES, he has crafted a movie that still has his mark on it – some great slow-motion work – but there’s a fun story to it as well, that I think might make SHERLOCK HOLMES the new INDIANA JONES. The movie gives us the supernatural, logical reasoning for things and some really fun, jaunty action. So, Guy Ritchie, I thank you for stepping up your game, and showing us that you can also make a great, and still fun, movie.

The story, written by a number of screenwriters – Michael Robert Johnson, with his first screenplay credit; Anthony Peckham, who also wrote INVICTUS; and Simon Kinberg, who also wrote JUMPER, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, and MR. AND MRS. SMITH – focusses on Sherlock Holmes, as he deals with the impending loss of his partner and sidekick, Dr. Watson, who is soon to be married. The movie opens with Sherlock and Watson – with the help of the police and it’s lead inspector LeStrade – capture what could very well be considered a Victorian era serial killer (that isn’t Jack the Ripper), Lord Blackwood and send him to prison. On the day he’s to be hanged, he asks for Sherlock Holmes, to which he promises the end of the world and the end of Holmes’ sanity. Then Blackwood is hanged and presumed dead.

The next day, his tomb has been destroyed and a witness has seen Lord Blackwood walking through the cemetery. Thus begins the mystery surrounding the apparent resurrection, and his plot to…well, take over the world. We meet the only woman to stymie Sherlock’s skils of deduction, a “ginger midget”, a giant that doesn’t mind electrocution, and of course the mysterious man, who remains unseen other than his hat and suit. There are some great breakdowns in how Holmes looks at the smaller details in order to gain advantage either over his opponents, or his friend’s fiancee. And there’s even the Scooby-Doo-esque explanation at the end; that amazingly enough managed to remind me of things that had happened earlier, and revealed the mysteries that seem predictable – but make sense in how the clues are all put in front of us through the whole movie.

The acting is all top-notch. Obviously great is Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes. There are moments that seem to be authentic if only because we, the audience, knows so much about Downey’s past. But, overall he’s great, and completely believable as both the thinking man that can tell from the slight fade on your skin whether you’ve been married before, and also as a man that knows the best way to kick the crap out of you.

Jude Law, as a Watson, that isn’t the conventional interpretation of the character from the original stories. He is great though, as a man who is the yang to Holmes’ yin; and is also far more of a normal person that the eccentric and socially awkward Holmes. Rachel McAdams, who plays Irene Adler, is as always a welcome actor to see on the screen. Her role, which is seemingly far more reduced than what it originally had been – considering almost every moment of her that has been shown in trailers, is not actually in the movie. Mark Strong, as Lord Blackwood, continues his streak of interesting – and always never on-screen enough – characters. He’s menacing, evil, and is a great foil to keep us occupied as the real villain – from Sherlock Holmes’ books – Moriarty, sets his own schemes in motion, and promises us hopefully another venture into this universe. Lastly, the appearance of great actors such as Eddie Marsan (HAPPY GO LUCKY), Kelly Reilly (THE LIBERTINE and PRIDE AND PREDJUDICE) bring their characters to life, and make this movie even more fun to watch and see the characters interact.

The other fun thing to mention, is the music. It might just be me, but the opening credits and music seemed to owe a great debt to the classic Carol Reed movie, THE THIRD MAN. Which is about, well, a man that is supposed to be dead; and winds up still causing a whole bunch of trouble. There’s also some great Irish tunes that help to elevate the score by Hans Zimmer. Thought it was worth mentioning, even if it’s only me that gets that connection.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, Sherlock Holmes has been around for a little over 120 years. In that time, the character has been translated to the screen (and various other media) countless times – according to Wikipedia, the only character to come close to being adapted into other media is Count Dracula. Ranging in being played by actors such as Basil Rathbone to Jeremy Brett to Michael Caine in the 1988 movie, WITHOUT A CLUE. He has also been reinterpreted into movies, as characters who are essentially Holmes, but don’t use the name – or time period. TV’s MONK, PSYCH, THE MENTALIST and even HOUSE to a degree, are all Holmsian; in movies, one of my favorite movies to reinterpret Holmes into a contemporary environment is Jake Kasdan’s first-directorial effort, ZERO EFFECT. Which starred Bill Pullman as Darryl Zero, as a reclusive, private investigator who is only comfortable in his own skin, when he’s pretending to be someone else.

Overall, I’ve always been a fan of mysteries and intrigue, and Sherlock Holmes is the epitome of the genre. The movie that Guy Ritchie, his crew, and the marvelous actors, have put together is an excellent example of how there is more to the character than the pipe and deer-stalker hat. Including many references and comments that fans of the original stories will “get” and enjoy. And I see this movie, gaining a wide fan-base and becoming a well-loved interpretation of the world’s greatest detective.

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