Sherlock Holmes is the latest film from Guy Ritchie who, in the past, has brought us masterpieces like Snatch, Rock ‘N Rolla and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Sherlock Holmes follows the godfather of detectives through Victorian London as he tries to unravel the mystery of an apparent resurrection by the evil Lord Blackwood who is portrayed brilliantly by Mark Strong.
The film is gritty and cold and follows stylistically with Ritchie’s other films. Ritchie loves to put his camera in the gutters of England and show us the filth that resides there. But unlike his previous films Ritchie did not write the screenplay for Sherlock Holmes. Instead Simon Kinberg, writer for such literary brilliance as xXx State of the Union, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jumper and X-Men: The Last Stand, was part of the creative team to create the script for Sherlock Holmes.
While Sherlock Holmes looks like a Guy Ritchie film it certainly doesn’t feel like one. It would have been interesting to see what Ritchie would have done with Doyle’s Holmes had he been able to write the script.
The movie suffers from poor writing only towards the end when it plays out like every other action movie we’ve ever seen. But Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Holmes as a man whose brilliance has cut him off from the world is absolutely fantastic. We first find Holmes locked away in his upper chamber smoking his pipe and playing the violin because the world has nothing left to offer him. As Watson, Jude Law gives one of his best performances in a long time. Downey Jr. and Law have great chemistry and their banter is endearing.
Hardcore Doyle fans will be disappointed with Holmes as the martial arts mater and indeed, in the books Holmes was not a fighter but a thinker. He was able to think himself out of difficult situations that were headed towards physical violence. But this is the way of all great art. Look at the recent interpretations and re-imaginings of Shakespeare. Each director and actor takes the story and the character in a new (sometimes drastic) direction. Ritchie chose to have Holmes engage in fighting. But Holmes even thinks through his fights like he thinks through his investigations. He plans everything out in advance—right down to the expected recovery time of his opponents. In reality, the fighting rounds Holmes out as the master of all trades. He’s not just a head on a stick: he is a true Renaissance man. And honestly, it makes the movie so much more entertaining to watch.
Rachel McAdams character was a little confusing to me. In the trailers it seemed like her role was more exaggerated than it actually was in the film. Her character only served as a come-along for the plot. She motivated Holmes from one place to another and eventually to the denouement of the film. It’s a shame that an actress of her talent should be “put in the corner”, as it were. Fortunately her performance as the stunning and brilliant Irene Adler shines through the fact that her character’s was placed on the shelf.
As I mentioned above, the ending is somewhat cliché but overall this film is definitely worth seeing. After you open presents on Christmas head over to 221b Baker Street. It’s elementary.