‘Sherlock Holmes’ at elementary best yet again (IANS Film Review; Rating ***)

January 9th, 2010 - 2:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Jude Law By Joginder Tuteja
Film: “Sherlock Holmes”; Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong;

Director: Guy Ritchie; Rating: ***

Trust filmmaker Guy Ritchie to keep reinventing himself with each outing. For someone who made a stunning announcement with “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998) more than a decade back, he continues to have his stamp firmly planted over his films.

Other than Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie is the only contemporary filmmaker who has a strong presence despite a limited body of work.

This is why one watches “Sherlock Holmes” keenly. Presenting an iconic character on celluloid is always a risky preposition. How does a director bring in a new dimension to characters that are so well known?

What Ritchie does is change the very surroundings of his lead protagonist Sherlock Holmes, played to perfection by Robert Downey Jr. He brings in black magic, sorcery and the conflict of believers v/s non-believers while aiming to bring scientific explanations to every mishap and misadventure.

An evil force Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) wishes to rule the world and he begins his endeavour from London. His one point agenda is to instil fear in the citizens of the world and for that, his weaponry is black magic.

Aided by his friend Doctor Watson (Jude Law), Sherlock Holmes gets Blackwood captured and the villain dies…only to return from the dead. From there begins an adventure where Holmes picks up clues, sees murders happening all around him, keeps his sanity intact and finally brings on a big expose that challenges the very essence of black magic.

As Holmes starts putting together the jigsaw puzzle, the narrative starts becoming far more engaging. An action sequence set on a ship and later atop a bridge is indeed thrilling while the background music is equally effective.

Cinematography, mainly in sepia shades, brings back London from a century ago. Also, despite black magic playing a major role in the narrative, it never turns gory or offensive. Instead, these are the points where dialogues, in characteristic Guy Ritchie style, are funny and help relieve the tense moments.

While the filmmaker reinvents himself with “Sherlock Holmes”, one misses his trademark shot-taking and background narrative along with character introduction, something that he has done so brilliantly in his earlier ventures.

Also, the film is verbose for most of its duration which means that for the lovers of non-stop and thrilling action, there isn’t much in the offing.

Yes, the film carries its own wit but given the fact that this is understated British humour, one has to adapt to it. It does take time to adjust to the mood of “Sherlock Holmes”.

Since the film is set in London of 1891, the sepia shades, dingy by-lanes, under construction buildings, horse driven carriages, the overall black costumes and heavily accented dialogue delivery take a viewer into a different world altogether.

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