A Brainy, Brawny Sherlock
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective always used his highly developed brainpower and observational skills to solve a mystery. But in Sherlock Holmes, the movie, this iconic character also relies on physical strength as he matches wits with a dastardly villain who dabbles in the dark arts. In this fast-paced action flick, the exceptionally talented Robert Downey Jr. appears to enjoy playing a new incarnation of Holmes, and he’s ably assisted by Jude Law as Dr. Watson.
Although offering viewers a host of visual treats, Sherlock Holmes seems long on stunts and short on logic, which I think should be an important element in all Holmesian adventures. Still, it’s great fun watching Downey Jr. sink his teeth – and everything else – into a role I remember the dignified Basil Rathbone portraying in so many films long ago. My favorite? The Hound of the Baskervilles – and to this day, I can’t resist watching that terrific movie whenever it’s shown on TV.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes looks fabulous. From the opening scene with a carriage racing through London’s rain-drenched cobblestone streets to the exciting climax atop an unfinished bridge, the film holds our attention by being so splendid to look at. Period costumes, props and sets bring to life the late 1800s and add to the movie’s visual appeal. In fact, all the production values -- including cinematography, background music, and editing -- are first-rate.
But it’s Downey’s performance and his rapport with Law that makes this film so special. While I noticed Downey swallowing some of his British-accented dialogue, I could always tell what his character was saying by the look on his expressive face, whether he was trying to sabotage Dr. Watson’s relationship with his fiancée or explaining his boxing strategy or bantering with the beautiful -- but very suspicious -- Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). Like fish and chips, Downey and Law complement each other perfectly as Holmes and Watson. They come across more like equals than in the earlier movies about Sherlock Holmes. As played by Law, Watson gives as good as he gets. He’s nobody’s toady.
Yes, the plot suffers from outlandishness. Evil Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong, wonderfully menacing in this role) is up to no good. After surviving a hanging, he returns to evildoing while plotting to take over the British government and lord knows what else. It’s up to Holmes and Watson to stop him. However, methinks they engage in too many wild fights along the way. Plus the sequel set-up is one of the most contrived I’ve seen lately.
But, hey, something is definitely afoot here, so I’m certain we’ll see more of Holmes and Watson in the near future.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material.)
For more information about Sherlock Holmes, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.