Saturday, 22 May 2010

221 b.p.m... Baker Street

Sherlock Holmes 2009 USA
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Warner Brothers DVD Region 2

I don’t know Guy Ritchie’s films. Not seen any of them apart from this one. It came as quite a surprise to me, however, that I really liked his take on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes purists might find this version of the great detective somewhat harder to swallow than a lot of his previous screen incarnations but maybe they should go back to the original, classic pulp stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Watson, for example, is a lot closer to the Watson than, say, the version of him portrayed by Nigel Bruce in those classic Basil Rathbone movies. And don’t get me wrong here please... I love Nigel Bruce’s portrayal and can watch it time and time again... but that’s not really much like Watson a good deal of the time. Jude Law’s portrayal of him is somewhat closer to the original... although, as with all aspects of this movie, the usual film liberties have been taken.

Downey Jr’s portrayal of Holmes is, like most of his work, entertaining and always watchable. Downey Jr is actually a brilliant comic actor and his humourous approach informs all of his characters. His Holmes is no exception and he brings a more “human” quality to the part which might not sit too well with some members of the audience... but you can’t please everyone.

This version of Sherlock Holmes is a version which is trying to compete in a market where almost the entire output of current movie-making is action oriented. The Holmes here is a bare knuckle boxer, as he had been for a while back in the original stories, and Ritchie’s brilliance with the way to adrenalise the Holmes experience is to have a couple of scenes where you see (and hear) Holmes working out the fight in his head and each blow is seen in slow motion as he calculates what he is going to do and the probable physical and psychological damage it will do to his opponent. We then get to see it all strung together at “fast speed” in one hit. This maybe a cheap trick designed to lend a certain credence to the elevation of Sherlock Holmes as a modern action here... but honesty, for me it did the trick.

And added to all this you have a, frankly, near perfect score by Hans Zimmer. I’ve reviewed the score here... ... but it deserves another mention because it is just so catchy and infectious. He makes use of a well worn Steinerism too... which I hadn’t noticed in my initial viewing... permeating the action scenes around the Westminster area in the last twenty or so minutes of the film, he uses two long sustained sets of four notes in the baseline of the background which, if played faster, are the chimes from Big Ben. Really nice little musical joke for those of you who appreciate such things.

Performances are all wonderful... you’ll see some familiar faces here... and the obligatory action editing is nowhere near as confusing as a lot of modern action movies. Definitely a whole hearted recommendation from this quarter. The game is afoot!

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