Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2009. Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Silver Pictures, Wigram Productions, Internationale Filmproduktion Blackbird Dritte. Screen story by Lionel Wigram, Michael Robert Johnson, Screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Cinematography by Philippe Rousselot. Produced by Susan Downey, Dan Lin, Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram. Music by Hans Zimmer. Production Design by Sarah Greenwood. Costume Design by Jenny Beavan. Film Editing by James Herbert. Academy Awards 2009. Golden Globe Awards 2009.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth, who helped give birth to more than a century of audience appetite for detective stories on the page and on the screen, returns once again with a modern boost of adrenaline. Director Guy Ritchie has pumped up the physical side of Holmes’ adventures, allowing the X-box generation to enjoy the delights of the Victorian period with added excessive violence and mayhem. Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. at his rascally best) and his trusted friend Dr. Watson (Jude Law) have their reputations put to the test when a murderous member of the House Of Lords (Mark Strong) is put to death by the law and pronounced deceased by Watson’s own hand. When this villainous fiend reappears in London, claiming to have come back from the dead thanks to his mastery of Dark Forces, he sets forth in motion a plan to destroy the existing government system and become the leader of England, and therefore, the world. Holmes and Watson have quite a lot to contend with: they must stop this man from committing mass murder, they must solve the mystery of how he is still alive, and they must work out their petty squabbles that have arisen from Watson’s decision to move out and marry his lovely fiancée (Kelly Reilly), thereby ruining the Peter Pan fantasy land of boyhood paldom that they have been enjoying up until this point. Rachel McAdams gives a colourless performance as Holmes’ female nemesis, but the film’s charm relies on Ritchie’s ability to keep the plot moving at a steady clip (the two hour-plus running time flies by) while indulging in the marvelous camaraderie between the two stars. Downey Jr. is already famous for the saucy verbiage he delivers here, but it’s wonderful to see that Law keeps up with him every step of the way. It could definitely use a more effective feel for the period; the murky atmosphere of Murder By Decree, the stuffy drawing rooms of Topsy-Turvy, the gas-lamped beauty of The Illusionist are not elements that Ritchie can muster up, apparently, but the film is highly entertaining and distractingly clever.