Movie Review: "Sherlock Holmes"

Robert Downey Jr. has pulled it off again and Guy Ritchie has proven that he can have a little variety up his sleeve.  Sherlock Holmes delivers the goods and shouldn’t disappoint.  This is a fun, witty, entertaining film that’s dark and serious at times then wildly over-the-top action packed at others.  It has the sense of humor expected from the comeback king, Downey, and the intelligence many have come to expect from the Sherlock Holmes franchise.  The reputation of the character remains yet improves by remaining more true to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation.  With the wittiness, bleak look, and the tremendous acting, Sherlock Holmes still creates a somewhat sensationalized turn of the century London allowing for a much larger scale production with unbelievable situations and gigantic special effects sequences.  Nonetheless, all the elements are able to complement each other well from the small dialogue-driven scenes to the monstrous kick-butt fighting creating an energized revitalization of a well-known classic.

It’s your jib-jab, punch, knock-out type of movie with the 1… 2… 3… and you’re out for the count.  Beginning slowly for the introductions of the characters and reveal of the conflict, Sherlock Holmes quickly changes gears with intricate elaborate fight sequences to a giant chase scene ending in an epic shipyard action sequence that could have been deserving of the films climax.  The filmmakers had to make everything more interesting, and hopefully not confusing, from there on out to build anticipation for the even more ludicrous ending battle.

The story begins with our intellectually adept hero Sherlock Holmes on search of a serial killer with the aid of his trustworthy partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law).  This is a killer unlike any Holmes has dealt with before but will be unknowing until after the duo catches him during one of his ritualistic murders.  Our killer Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is seemingly connected to the dark side and voodoo.  Blackwood has plans of his own that include his own execution.  His promises to Holmes that this is just the beginning materialize as he is resurrected causing havoc in London.  Seems implausible, but for Holmes “the game is afoot”.

What’s this?  Magic?  A man coming back to life?  Remember not everything is as it appears, and in the case of Sherlock Holmes, practically nothing is.  The movie has a quality of much of the crime investigation dramas or an M. Night Shyamalan film where nothing is at it seems.  As for Sherlock Holmes, he looks past the obvious to see the truth and solve these complex mysteries leaving the audience guessing until the end.  I for one was starting to see a ton of loop holes three quarters of the way in, but all my questions were thankfully answered, and then some, by the end of the film.

The year is 1890, in London where the Tower Bridge is still under construction and everything is still very Victorian and elegant.  This setting with advancements in technology allows for a very visionary film.  It’s quite cinematic with a wonderful screenplay to accompany it.  It stays very intelligent, but not hard to understand.

Downey and Law interact great with one another playing off each other as if they have been friends and partners in detective work forever.  Amazingly, Downey’s accent sounds very believable and even thicker than Jude Law’s natural accent.  Rachael McAdams plays a beautiful American girl who’s into some mischief herself.  She plays Irene Adler, the complicated girl in Holmes life that he doesn’t know how to deal with but cannot let go of.  The cast of characters all do an excellent job and truly hold up to their respective roles.  Also, Eddie Marsan plays Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade who is close to Mr. Holmes, but becomes a little frustrated with at times.

This is a film where the filmmakers attempted to make every aspect realistic and believable from a secret laboratory to the living quarters of Mr. Holmes himself.  However, some of this realism doesn’t quite sustain into much of the action, but it’s excusable due to the nature of who Sherlock Holmes is anyway.  He’s a man that can see more than meets the eyes or in some cases, more than the audience can imagine.  In ways his abilities seem supernatural allowing our perception of reality a little cloudy.  Once the audience is informed of his gift to see beyond the obvious and are shown his knack to intricately plan out every move he is about to make, the unrealistic battles of the latter become a little more believable.

Nothing beats a typical cartoon-like maze of deathtraps created through slaughterhouse machinery.  I was quite annoyed this scene was created as it reminds me of those cartoons with the trapped hero inching forward towards a circular saw then saved just in the hair-splitting nick of time.  I kind of had to roll my eyes here along with the people falling off ledges and just happen to land perfectly on a platform below that one specific place they fell from.  These scenes are in place for a reason however.  I can’t complain too much as the scenes were respectfully done and not terribly cheesy.  Several times the movie just felt TOO “Bruckheimer-like” though.

Really though, that’s just nitpicking as I’m positive the common movie-goer will not be aware of these little problems in those scenes.  After all, the Sherlock Holmes books were meant to be more of an action adventure but were previously made into a ‘detective noir’ type movie.  This adaptation continues with the noir feel while adding more suspense and action.  In fact, the old-fashioned fighting scenes were very well done using slow motion film techniques to explain what Holmes is planning to do milliseconds before he actually throws his punches and kicks.  Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie actually practiced martial arts for years to develop just the right fighting style for Mr. Holmes.  Doyle called it ‘Baritsu’ in his novels, which is actually a hybrid jujitsu actually named Bartitsu.  Watson however is more a brawler compared to the graceful style of Holmes.  Both Downey and Jude Law do a tremendously believable job portraying skillful fighters with the help from Ritchie and Oscar-winning director of photography Philippe Rousselot talent to capture it.

It feels that Guy Ritchie and the rest of the filmmakers wanted to give justice to the story and create something a little different that can compete better with today’s big budgeted action flicks.  Sherlock Holmes has successfully created a film with large amounts of action and special effects without making it feel like some silly summer blockbuster.  Instead a refreshing original film has been created that with a fabulous cast of actors and an original screenplay has delivered an entertainingly witty fun film.  This is escapism at its best.  Sherlock Holmes allows the mind to be free and concentrate only on what’s in front
of you, which to me is a good film!

I’m only concerned that nothing along the lines of the characters stories are solved by the end, but instead we are only treated to the end of one mystery.  By the end I feel as if next week we will continue on with their lives in another episode, however we all know that this is not the case.  Therefore no meaning is received by this film.  Instead we are left with just another fun film that puts us in a time and place with some loveable characters without any reasoning.  You’ll need to ask yourself if you need anymore.

 

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Joel Covey

Joel has been writing for SoCalThrills for the past decade covering entertainment, events, and theater since joining the site. He is a CSUF alum, studying within the Communication and Radio / TV / Film colleges.