Cast: Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Theatrical release: 12/25/2009 DVD Date: 03/30/2010
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 128 minutes
Note(s): An original screenplay based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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Review: Let me start by saying that, while I'm no expert on Sherlock Holmes, I'm one of those who have read each of the novels and short stories at least twice -- in some cases, multiple times -- and has even posted a famous quote from "Silver Blaze" on my Facebook page. I've read and reread the extensive research notes in my favorite collection of the canon, The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by William Baring-Gould. Bottom line: I'm a fan. I was somewhat skeptical, therefore, of Guy Ritchie's reimagining of the great detective and his sidekick in this film from last year. I'm delighted to say upfront I wasn't disappointed ... with most of the film.
I've seen Sherlock Holmes both in the theater and on DVD, and it is a spectacular movie to look at. Victorian London is recreated with such imagination and detail that I felt as if I was walking the streets with Holmes and Watson. That most of it was CGI didn't matter much to me; it achieved its purpose by drawing me in and keeping my interest. The casting, at least for the principal characters, is spot on. Prior to the film's release, I had no trouble imagining Jude Law in the role of Dr. John Watson, but I was concerned with Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. I shouldn't have been. He puts his own spin on the character that is unique yet true to the source material, a remarkable achievement. The two actors have a natural chemistry on screen, so much so that's it's easy to believe they've shared quarters and adventures for some time, and neither are really looking forward to time apart (as a consequence of Watson's pending marriage). I also thought the pacing just about ideal, with scenes that advanced the plot alternating with well-staged action sequences.
So ... what doesn't work here? Well, the plot itself, for one. It's actually kind of silly, what with black magic and the dark arts and such, almost as if it were appended as an afterthought. But maybe that was somewhat intentional -- get audiences hooked on the characters first, then give them a rousing story in the sequel (which, incidentally, is being planned; let's hope I'm right about the upcoming plot here).
Still, it's hard not to like some aspects to it, mostly having to do with Holmes's deductive abilities. During the film, there are "imagined" scenes that relate to something Holmes sees; at the end, these are combined with others to show how he figured it all out.
What else doesn't quite work are the characters of the two women in the film, Watson's fiancÚ Mary Morstan and the only woman to have ever bested Holmes, Irene Adler. The performances by, respectively, Kelly Reilly and Rachel McAdams are fine in and of themselves, it's just that, rather like the plot, they seem to be included in hindsight, as necessary but in reality not. (Both do, however, offer some welcome comic relief early in the film.)
Sherlock Holmes is what it intends to be: an entertaining film that does justice to one of literature's most iconic characters. I'm certainly looking forward to the sequel, currently scheduled for release in late 2011, which promises to include the character of Professor Moriarty -- Sherlock Holmes's most dangerous and cunning nemesis.