January 23, 2010

Sherlock Holmes film review

Alert: The reviewer is a Sherlock Holmes addict - having read and mastered the 56 Short stories and 4 novels. He is also a part of http://221bakerstreet.org/

Sherlock Holmes by the very nature of the character is a treasure trove for a book, but a nightmare for any visual medium. The character is one based on the fact that the devil is in the details - which means that books could hide the details from the reader while the movie cannot. So from that perspective, first off, it is a huge challenge to make a movie and still keep it engrossing. And add the fact that Guy Ritchie wanted to give his own spin to the characters. Suffice to say that all this makes this movie one of the most difficult projects to make.

The plot without too many spoiler is this: Lord Blackwood who is an occult practitioner is put to jail by Sherlock Holmes and Watson. From then on, the movie takes a sinister turn in that Lord Blackwood, post his execution, seems to exist, albeit paranormally. The rest is about how Holmes tries to contain Blackwood and the extent of his occult powers.

As far as the acting goes, Robert Downey Jr. who, based on his current form, cannot do anything wrong, is fantastic in this new version of Sherlock Holmes. The recent trend has been to give generous tinges of gray to all the common characters which is why you see Batman trying to deal more with his inner demons and why SpiderMan had to battle the nano particles which made him more violent and aggressive. On that strain, Holmes is more talkative, (seemingly) has a relationship with Irene Adler and get hit on his snoot by Dr. Watson. Coming to Dr. Watson, this is where Guy Richie has shown his brilliance. Watson in the novels is a trusted aid and lieutenant - but is pretty much a part of the background. Here, Ritchie makes Jude Law give a good interpretation to the character. Watson is the composed, mature friend of Holmes who does not stay back and relax but who is by Holmes side during the action sequences. Apart from these two, there is not much to say about the characterizations. But with a sequel already underway and with Brad Pitt rumored to play Professor Moriarty, let me just say that Ritchie's got his casting and acting departments in iron clad, critic proof vests ;-)

The action sequences and the milieu and setting are quite breathtaking (but if you see this right after seeing Avatar on IMAX 3D, please forget I said this sentence). Also, the crucial denouement sequence, which is the best part of any Sherlock Holmes story has been very well made - in the sense that there was enough shown for you to have guessed it and at the same time, they had not shown it with sufficient emphasis for you to pick what Holmes did pick from that scene. This is the part which made the movie work for me big time.

The other elevating factor in this movie is the music, by Hans Zimmer. In any thriller movie, the BGM plays a critical part in elevating the suspense and tempo and in this, Zimmer has excelled at his craft, which he is quite used to doing.

Guy Ritchie was one big director who did not have a franchise to his credit - and in making Sherlock Holmes has achieved two things: 1. Prove why he needed a franchise movie in his resume - he is quite capable of doing it 2. Make us eagerly await the sequel.

Go for it!!

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