The Scoop: 2009, PG-13. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong.
Tagline: Nothing escapes him.
Summary Capsule: Sherlock deals with Watson’s leaving the nest, and solves some murders and a resurrection while he’s at it.
Eunice’s Rating: Cut a stout black thorn to banish ghosts and goblins.
Eunice’s Review: Sherlock Holmes movies have it a bit tough.
On the one hand, it’s hard to faithfully adapt the books and stories. Like with any fandom, hardcore fans will never be happy. The only version that seems to please is the Jeremy Brett one, but that was over several TV series, so the format was more suited. On the other, so many things that a wider audience immediately associates with Holmes actually come from either William Gillette’s stage adaptation or the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies. You leave them out and people feel somehow cheated. And then on one foot, you have to put your own mark on it, which will come off as brilliant or completely awful. There is no in between.
This movie will not please everyone, but it certainly pleased me. Get your mind out of the gutter.
We’re dropped right in the middle as the Great Detective (No, not Batman) finds himself facing some personal crises: He’s in an unbearable mental stagnation after the high of solving the challenging and dangerous case of murderous dark arts practitioner Lord Blackwood, which ended in his lordship’s conviction and execution. But even more horrible is the fact that Dr. Watson has declared that this was his last case because he is about to marry and move out of 221B Baker Street. And then old flame, and world class criminal(!), Irene Adler comes back into his life on behalf of a mysterious employer who is looking for a “ginger midget.”
Just as Holmes is about to self implode, Blackwood is all, “I’m not dead yet. I feel happy!” breaking out of his tomb and continuing his spree of fear and murder. ‘Cause that’s how he rolls. This is just the cure for what ails Holmes as not only does it present stimulation for his brain, but totally gives him a reason to convince Watson to stick around a little longer, and it turns out that Irene is tied up in the whole lot, natch.
This movie’s second biggest setback may be in its assumption that everyone already has a grasp on the basic universe and characters. As someone who does, I find it’s also one of its biggest strengths. Forgetting about any real introductions or explanations, we come in just as Holmes and Watson catch Blackwood in the act. They are established characters, and this is an established story, just try to keep up.
The biggest setback is the story. The plot is pretty convoluted, leading to some incredible scenes, but the villain’s motives aren’t ever really explained. Okay, not true, there is one scene which boils down to someone saying “he’s eeevil.” Looking back and thinking over it, you’ll probably find yourself going “Hurr?” Or, at least with my one viewing, I did. But, as convoluted as the story is, the mystery aspects are too easy to figure out, though I will give points for not cheating by hiding clues from the audience. These weaknesses, I suspect, come from the fact that it’s pretty obvious that Sherlock Holmes is just a setup for a sequel and is more character driven than an actual mystery.
But all is not lost.
I believe that good performances and characters can raise a movie and that is definitely where this one’s strengths lie.
See, Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson have amazering chemistry. They bicker and banter and have moments like people who’ve known each other for years. It’s like whoa. They’re written perfect, they’re acted perfect, both of them nail it. There’s no way either of them could’ve been replaced by other actors and have any of the movie work. And usually I can’t even stand Jude Law! I’ll put in here the fact that I really liked the choice of using other means of conveying Holmes’ thought process than him having to explain everything to Watson in a block of dialogue, both in terms of showing the relationship of the characters and sidestepping the cliché.
Mark Strong doesn’t have much in Lord Blackwood, being more of the “I pop out of the dark at you – BOO!” not-quite-boss villain (remember what I said about obvious sequel[s]?), but what he has he works for all it’s worth. He’s a solid actor no matter what he’s in or the size of the part, and he’s yet to disappoint me in anything I’ve seen him in. If you haven’t caught on to Mark Strong yet you need to. Right now.
Rachel McAdams was okay, but I was way more impressed with Kelly Reilly’s Mary, both in performance and the character. Mary’s story may not be strictly true to the source, but I ended up really liking her and how the Holmes/Watson/Mary dynamic worked out.
The best way I can describe the feel is it’s a Guy Ritchie movie with a shadowy Victorian backdrop and cleaner language. A mix of action and comedy, with slowmos, camera angles, and a couple uses of the story rewind, all set against a Hans Zimmer score.
To summarize: No matter what I said up there, it is one of the better Sherlock Holmes movies. If you’re like me and mentally keep the books separate from the movies, then you can appreciate that it has great acting, an interesting spin on the characters, some fantastic visuals, and the soundtrack is quite delish. And it’s just plain fun.
Can’t wait for the sequel!
- If there’s ever a drinking game for this movie “Take a drink every time Lord Blackwood pops out all spooky.” would definitely be in there.
- Not the Illuminati. Nope no Illuminati here.
- The music that plays over the boxing match and end credits is The Rocky Road to Dublin, by The Dubliners. Along with Not In Blood, But In Bond (which plays during the explosion scene) it’s my favorite track from the movie. Unfortunately it’s not on the official soundtrack. Lame.
- The scene of Holmes doing experiments on the effects of the violin on flies is a reference to 1939 movie The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
- The set for Sherlock Holmes’ home was previously used as Sirius Black’s home in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
- When Irene Adler is looking through Holmes’ file on her, many of the headlines have a connection to the actual stories, like A Scandal in Bohemia and The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans.
Mrs. Hudson: He’s killed the dog. Again.
Sherlock Holmes: You’ve never complained about my methods before.
Dr. Watson: I’ve never complained! When have I ever complained about you practicing the violin at three in the morning? Or your mess? Your general lack of hygiene or the fact that you steal my clothes?
Sherlock Holmes: We have a bartering system.
Sherlock Holmes: Madame, I need you to remain calm and trust me, I’m a professional. Beneath this pillow lies the key to my release.
Palm Reader: Brothers. Not in blood, but in bond.
Sherlock Holmes: Data, data, data! I cannot make bricks without clay.
Dr. Watson: Relax… I’m a doctor.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These
- Iron Man
- Sherlock Holmes (The Strange Case of Alice Faulkner)
- The Prestige