DIR: Guy Ritchie • WRI: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg • PRO: Susan Downey, Dan Lin, Joel Silver • DOP: Philippe Rousselot • ED: James Herbert • DES: Sarah Greenwood • CAST: Robert Downey, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan
It’s no mystery why Sherlock Holmes has remained popular since his inception by Arthur Conan Doyle. As a benevolent private investigator, Holmes employs his keenly trained mind, skilled fists and invaluable partner to resolve issues beyond the grasp of the police.
However, it doesn’t take Holmes’ genius to deduce that in direct comparison with a more contemporary, muscle-bound, gadget-wielding, cowl-wearing private investigator, poor Holmes seems decidedly dated.
Sherlock Holmes is no Batman. Thankfully, director Guy Ritchie knows this.
So, how to resolve the issue of said comparison? Elementary: focus on Holmes’ wit, which extends beyond his ‘not inconsiderable’ analytical skills. Next add genuine chemistry between the charismatic lead (Robert Downey Jr.) and the stiff-lipped Watson (Jude Law). Finish with a perplexing case, and the result? Sherlock Holmes.
Rest assured there were furrowed brows, clenched fists and gnashed teeth when this honour was not bestowed upon a British actor. Well, if you can’t have a British one, might as well have a bloody good one. And as expected, Downey Jr. does the role justice. His eccentric, energetic portrayal is a divergence from the common depiction, but it suits the pacing of the film. It will also make you laugh. Alot.
Without seeming ridiculous or worse still, unprofessional, Holmes tackles his mysterious case with all the vigour and conviction one could hope for. He is not alone in his endeavours though, and his cooperation/constant bickering with the stalwart Watson and the mischievous Adler (Rachel McAdams) make up the bulk of the humour. And a considerable bulk it is.
Unsurprisingly, apprehension aplenty is afoot for Holmes and Watson, evidenced by some cracking fights. Unfortunately the only real criticism of this fun venture is that these scenes employ unnecessary close-ups that tarnish the viewer’s experience. Sadly this has become common practice in many studios, and it’s difficult to decipher why. Perhaps Holmes should take a crack at that mystery.
Despite the humour, action and mystery, the attraction of Sherlock Holmes is undoubtedly the nuanced, inventive ways in which clues, revelations, inferences and general cleverness litter the film. You are never far from Holmes smugly reasoning away another problem, at which point you will kick yourself for not figuring it out and smirk at the ease with which the good inspector unravels it.
Sherlock Holmes could have been torn asunder by a modern audience, who demand a darker, edgier, Kevlar-clad hero. Mercifully, due to nice pacing, clever writing, engaging action and strong performances, with tongue slightly within cheek, viewers should be too busy enjoying themselves to complain.
(See biog here)