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The International Writers Magazine: Review

Sherlock Holmes
starring Robert Downey jnr and Jude Law
Directed by Guy Richie
• Daniel Cann


The World’s most famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes gets another adaptation here in director Guy Ritchie’s originally named ‘Sherlock Holmes'. You would be hard pressed to find someone who does not at the very least have an idea of who Holmes is. The character has formed into our collective consciousness from his original appearance in ‘The Strand’ magazine in 1887 through four novels, fifty-six short stories and countless stage, film, radio and television adaptations. He is perhaps the most portrayed fictional character ever, so this latest film has a lot to live up to.

I am pleased (and relieved) to say that it does not disappoint. I believe that casual fans as well as purists will enjoy this effort in equal measure. It is reverential to its subject matter with Robert Downey Jr as the famous sleuth effortlessly capturing the genius and bohemian nature of Holmes. Any fan will tell you that Holmes can be both melancholy and lethargic or a lightening bolt of manic energy and ingenuity. Well Downey Jr has captured all of these aspects of the character exceptionally well and thanks to a first rate script we can add sardonic humour into that mix as well.   

Where would Holmes be without his loyal friend Dr John Watson? He is brought to life by Jude Law who plays Watson as an equal, a sort of Sundance Kid to Holmes’ Butch Cassidy. Their relationship is totally convincing and we need no preamble to know how they met or how good they are as a team and what they mean to each other. There is plenty of banter and verbal sparring amongst the ensuing action and mayhem.

It is good to see Mrs Hudson (Holmes’ housekeeper), Inspector Lestrade and Mary Morstan all characters from the original stories present here. This adaptation has not tried to be something different, jettisoning the old. By remaining faithful this effort has added gravitas and will please the more die-hard fans.

There is a new villain and Ritchie regular Mark Strong is on excellent form once again as the Aleister Crowley-like Lord Blackwood, a terrifyingly malevolent and evil opponent for Holmes, who practices the dark arts and plans to bring down the British Empire. The plot concerns the supernatural and the occult which Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would undoubtedly have approved. There is also an indestructible henchman, Dredger that all good action thrillers enjoy.

Mention in the acting honours must also go to Rachel McAdams as ‘the woman’ (as Holmes in literature referred to her), Irene Adler, the only adversary ever to get the better of the super sleuth. Here she is portrayed as a feisty, intelligent and independent individual who is a worthy adversary or a valued ally. It’s nice to see a Hollywood film role that is not just all about being ‘eye candy’ or a foil to the hero. Adler can hold her own with anyone and we can believe it here.

The pacing throughout is excellent and there are scenes cleverly edited to show how Holmes’ analytical and deductive mind works as well as how he executes his ideas physically. He is a master of disguise in the stories and this is so in this film, there are plenty of amusing scrapes of this kind. The action is explosive and I was gripped for the whole two hours of the films duration. The set design, costumes and attention to period detail effortlessly evoke Victorian London, ( a thrill to see Victorian London and a busy Thames so vividly brought to life) no stone has been left unturned in this production and it shows.

With no weak links in the chain (and believe me as an avid Holmes fan I looked) this is one of the best. I will not compare Downey Jr with other incarnations of Holmes like Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing or Jeremy Brett; rather I will say that he is the perfect Holmes for these times. This film deserves a sequel or even a series. Without giving any spoilers away the scene is nicely set for further adventures and on this showing I will eagerly anticipate any. It is also a triumph for Ritchie who since early success with ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’ has had a slightly uneven career since. This first commercial venture has proved that he is equally adept at taking on a mainstream Hollywood studio movie and making it work. So it could be a renaissance for him as well as Sherlock Holmes. Hats (or deerstalkers) off to this. Excellent effort all round. This is what cinema was made for!

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