This was a guest review submitted by Seth Middleton. Thanks Seth! You can submit your own reviews to SquidFlicks here.
I’ll have to admit my perceptions of this film from the previews left me caged in a sense of contemporary redressing. Maybe that quip sounds a little bit overtly complicated. Let me simplify it. The previews left me certainly at odds with how the film was being fashioned. It looked like a packaged action vehicle for Robert Downey Jr.’s new claim to fame as action hero.
Certainly I interpreted that judgment now as a misperception. Just like I found the casting of Jude Law as Watson leaving me perplexed and scratching my head. Needless to say, I didn’t trust these decisions. But luckily I have a certain fondness for the charactesr and the material and stories that I was drawn to it anyways. (Growing up watching Young Sherlock Holmes and playing the PC games certainly helped) I was just too on the fence about it but decided to finally buck up and check it out. Glad I did.
Right from the get-go the film maintains a constant pace that doesn’t care if you can’t keep up, which I like. Because I felt the style and overall tone of the film captures the essence of Holme’s mind. Its always busy, always trying to get two steps ahead, and even if you get lost in the shuffle, it doesn’t mind explaining the deductive reasoning of every situation down to its tiny detail in its story structure without ever being dull.
Its almost like getting a movie version of the inner workings of the main characters thought processes as opposed as seeing it from an outsiders viewpoints in other interpretions. Even still though, we can’t help but smile as we see our title character get in and out of every situation and marvel as he puts his mind to work on the case.
The story itself revolves around a shrouded mystery involving a dark secret society in the hierarchy of British government that plays out like a 19th century version of Angels and Demons only without the preachy implications. Even the score was done by Hans Zimmer who likewise composed that film and dutifully patterns the score in a playful small string motif and meshes it with a dark undercurrent of suspense.
The movie plays out like a whimsical thriller peppered with humor and action rather than a stiff mystery. It’s a fun film with lots of style that took me off guard some given that its aimed more for a smarter crowd but still keeping the action crowd in mind.
What’s interesting too in this story is that going in, we already know the relationship between Holmes and Watson by this point and how it teeters back and forth. But in this version we see that the duo’s personal lives which are constantly intertwine gets shaken up as apparently Watson is moving out and moving on with life, sort of leaving Holmes in the dust.
The personal history us fans know is there between the two men and the film doesn’t care if newcomers don’t understand some of these. What’s funny is that there are many moments where we could pause and watch the two split and have that atypical argument over this change and then the friendship rekindles for them to team up again in the final act. But the screenwriters don’t allow that to happen.
The tension of what each is going through personally is spelled out not verbally in dialogue as much per say in reactions or given situations that arise. There’s both a strain in the friendship with their living styles but likewise a respect for one another’s history. Both are smart collegues but have different approaches to come to the same page which makes them such a great team.
Holmes views London as his playground. Watson just can’t help but join the fun. He can try putting it all aside but he can’t helped but be intrigued and drawn in. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law both play the parts respectfully and at the same time make it their own and do it subtley. And I didn’t think they would pull it off but they did through and through. I’ve always enjoyed Robert’s work and was worried that he was going to get typecasted into every action type role since Iron Man a couple years back and figured this to be a watered down version of an iconic character without that British flair. (Luckily Guy Ritchie, a Brit director, kept the sensibilities in check. Good call Warner Bros.)
In all honesty…this is a far more enjoyable film with more substance to it than Iron Man ever could be. It’s also more tailored to Robert’s sense of acting style and character and on top of that he has to pull off an accent. So I think this role was both a risk and a challenge. There’s even a spark of manic to the character, that makes you a bit empathetic for him and its done through expressions, not dialogue, which is hard to pull off. Like it’s saying knowledge is lonely at the top but now that I’ve given you the knowledge about my feelings toward this film…I hope you don’t find it at the bottom of your list of films to watch. Check it out.