Friday Film: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Robert Downey Jr. (Holmes), Jude Law (Watson), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood)

Directed by Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)

IMDB: Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England.

I'm very behind on my movie reviews, but I feel obliged to keep up with them. I genuinely enjoy being able to hear someone mention a movie that I've seen and be able to return to my archives to refresh my memory--especially seeing as how I don't do that with books anymore.

Keven took me to see Sherlock Holmes as part of our February date escape to Chicago. Of course I think Robert Downey Jr. is an angelic wreck of a human being, in the best possible sense. I am utterly intrigued by how he moves and stares and sizes up the world. I always get the feeling that I'm not looking closely enough at something he would see as embarrassingly obvious.

However, this was not a Robert Downey Jr. movie, if that makes sense--not in the way that Iron Man was. This was about Holmes, about messing with and honoring a literary icon. I'll admit that I know nothing about the source material beyond the fact that Holmes' assistant is named Watson. As such I was probably the best sort of viewer for this version because liberties with the original books were never going to bother me.

I very much enjoyed how Guy Ritchie (welcome back, dude!) established very early on how Holmes thinks. The boxing scene in which Holmes sees and explains what he's about to do, all mentally in a strange slow-mo breakdown of future events, was a marvelous shorthand for how Holmes takes apart every single moment of time. He's not just present, he's present in a nearly supernatural way.

That nod toward his internal workings was then paired with the scene in which he's waiting for Watson to arrive with his fiancé. Holmes sits along at the table, his eyes jerking and twitching, as the camera cuts and cuts and cuts to all the things he's seeing. No narration this time. Just more proof that his brain is still on hyperdrive. Thus when he almost magically solves the mystery at the finale, we're not surprised. He's obviously been hard at work the whole time!

But with all of this attention to the "Holmes-ness" of the role, something of RDJr was lost. Maybe it was too serious? Too introverted? I got the same sense of extreme intelligence from his role as Tony Stark in the first Iron Man, but with heap-loads of charisma. Here, in trying to produce a stodgy, unfathomable mind, Downey shrugged out from under his usual manic charm. It was probably the best decision for the role, but I was left a little disappointed.

That left Jude Law to steal the show. I adored him back in his The Talented Mr. Ripley days, but most of that love has been erased by some truly shitty behavior over the past few years. His performance as Watson rejuvenated some of my regard for an actor who has the potential to create utterly entrancing characters. I mean...it's Watson! This is no place for stand-out performances! Apparently Law didn't get that memo. He wound up playing the companion to Downey's psycho Victorian version of the Doctor--the one who knows as much and as little as we do, which is never enough to stave off Holmes' slight touch of pity for having such an incapable intellect. As such Watson was the heart of this picture, helping us interpret and even admire Holmes and his quirks.

Mark Strong played a very heavy-handed baddie, as he's been wont to do of late. He needs a romantic comedy ASAP to stave off type-casting. Rachel McAdams played a lovely foil to Holmes, not competing with him in an outright sense but frustrating and perplexing him nonetheless. I'm curious to see where they'll be taking the relationships with the women when they embark on the sequel, primarily because the homoerotic undertones played so strongly.

Action sequences and set pieces abounded, as did quippy one-liners. I enjoyed it like crazycakes and would like to see it again. It wasn't 100% full-on Downey awesomeness, but the sum of its parts made for a decadent Victorian funhouse.

1 comment:

Donna Alward said...

Carrie, clearly you and I are on the same wavelength. I agreed with you on The Pacific and I'm with you on Sherlock Holmes too. 100%.

Now I'm just dying to see Iron Man 2. :-)