Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Sherlock Holmes


Review by Patrick Hodges

I am a lifelong devotee of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  So it’s not surprising that I wasn’t sure what to make of the latest big-screen incarnation of the most famous fictional detective – indeed, one of the most famous fictional characters – in history.  Oh, I wasn’t worried at all about the fact that he was being portrayed by an American actor… my confidence in Robert Downey Jr.’s ability to bury himself in any role is absolute.  What I was considerably more skeptical of was the ability of director Guy Ritchie to convincingly convey the drama, the mystery, and the feel of the time (London near the end of the 19th century) that was so masterfully written by Arthur Conan Doyle.

If you recall, Ritchie has thus far sustained himself almost exclusively on gritty English “heist” dramas like Snatch, RockNRolla and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.  Sherlock Holmes is, by an order of magnitude, the most ambitious project he has ever undertaken.  Well, I am pleased to say that he was able to pull it off admirably.

Though the story was not actually one that was penned by Conan Doyle, the characters of Sherlock Holmes and his faithful (yet oft-exasperated) companion, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) sprang to life in front of me.  Downey portrayed Holmes exactly as I’d hoped – brilliant, of course, but full of flaws, not the least of which were characteristics like overweening arrogance and a reckless streak to go along with it.

The story begins with Holmes foiling the nefarious plot of a mysterious cult leader named Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong).  Before being executed, he vows to return to complete his evil plan.  Cut to several months later, with Holmes dying of boredom and Watson preparing to move in with his fiancée Mary (Kelly Reilly), but both are called into action when it appears that Blackwood has indeed risen from the grave and is on the brink of making good his threat, a threat that could shake the country to its very core if successful.

Along the way, Holmes becomes reacquainted with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), and old nemesis who has had a rather…sordid past and with whom Holmes himself has had a romantic history.  Unbeknownst to Holmes, she is in the employ of an even more mysterious person, a Professor whose name I think you can probably guess, as his name is almost synonymous with that of Holmes himself.  (Suffice it to say, more Holmes movies are set up at this one’s conclusion.)

The acting, I must say, was very good, though the characters’ thick British accents were often difficult to penetrate.  But other than that, I give all the credit in the world to Ritchie, who has created a thoroughly entertaining, extremely faithful film that may end up carrying on the legend of Holmes for years to come.

4 ½ / 5 stars

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