Release Date: December 25th, 2009
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In the damp, dark streets of 1891 London, Sherlock Holmes(Robert Downey Jr.) along with his friend and partner Dr. John Watson(Jude Law) are in a race against time to stop Lord Henry Blackwood(Mark Strong)from performing a ritualistic human sacrifice. Holmes and Watson arrive just in time and arrest Blackwood. Three months later, on the day of his execution, Blackwood requests a meeting with Holmes at which point he tells him that three more people will die and that their deaths will change the very nature of their world. After this meeting Blackwood is hanged and pronounced dead by Watson himself.
After the execution Holmes is approached by Irene Adler(Rachel McAdams), the only person to ever outwit him. Irene offers him a job from her employer to find a missing person. In the meantime, Blackwood has been said to be risen from the dead and seen walking away from his own tomb. As Holmes investigates deeper into Blackwood's mysterious resurrection, he is led to the Temple of the Four Orders, an occult-dabbling secret society to which Blackwood previously belonged. The order wishes for Holmes to find and stop Blackwood as they believe he will attack them. Holmes deducts that Blackwood is attempting to cast a spell based off of the mythological sphinx, requiring Blackwood to kill for 4 different animal constituents. Holmes realizes that the fourth and final murder is the English Parliament. Holmes, Watson and Irene then race across London in an effort to find Blackwood and stop him before he can complete his takeover of all of Parliament.
It has been quite sometime since audiences have enjoyed a full featured Sherlock Holmes film and director Guy Ritchie aims to brings us a new and reinvigorated Holmes and Watson. Ritchie's direction of Holmes is one that we have not seen in the typical movies and shows based on the great detective. Robert Downey Jr. gives us a more bohemian Holmes. What I found particularly intriguing was how Downey and Ritchie's Holmes was a more physical character in the sense that he really knew how to take a man down. Reading other reviews I have seen a lot of negative feelings towards the brawling nature of the new Holmes with people saying it isn't how the character is supposed to act. Downey's Holmes does some serious fighting in this film but it is different from your typical "beat-em-up" fight scenes. Holmes, as we all know, is a master of detail, science and precision and all of those characteristics show in his fighting style. As Holmes analyzes his crime scenes and other situations for exactly the right way to do something, he does the same for his fights. Before a few major fights in the film, Holmes is shown, in slow motion, beating up his attacker while simultaneously describing what he is doing and what effect it will have on his opponent. Its kind of like you are in Holmes' head. Then the scene rewinds and you see Holmes' analysis in action. Many people who are great fans of the original written Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle say that Downey's fighting Holmes seems more closely true to the original character portrayed in the books.
But Holmes isn't the only one who can deliver a punch. Jude Law's John Watson character also had his own array of impressive fighting moves. Law's Watson was not the bumbling character typically seen in many adaptations of the classic character. The film made a point of reminding you of Watson's history as a soldier, doctor, womanizer and gambler which added depth to the character. Law had said in an interview that there was unexplored material in this film and that he was intrigued by the films exploration of Holmes and Watson's friendship. I think Downey and Law had an excellent chemistry between the two of them. Law's Watson was essentially the voice of reason in Holmes' life and his main companion in everything he did. I liked how Ritchie explored the relationship between the two characters. He showed how Holmes would have been effected if Watson were to discontinue working with him and how much Watson was apart of Holmes and vice versa.
The overall theme of the film was entertaining and the story was intriguing, like most Holmes stories are. I found the clash between Holmes' science and Mark Strong's character of Lord Blackwood's "magic" to be an interesting conflict. It made for an interesting twist in the film as well as a nice challenge for the great detective. Now anybody who has read a Sherlock Holmes novel or seen a visual adaptation knows that Holmes greatest weapon and asset is his attention to detail and his ability to perceive even the most minute detail of his surroundings. An interesting thing Guy Ritchie did with this is that he showed how Holmes' greatest asset was also his greatest curse. In a scene between Holmes', Watson and Watson's fiance Mary Morstan(Kelly Reilly), Holmes sits in a restaurant awaiting the arrival of the other two. While waiting, we see that Holmes is analyzing every single thing that is going on around him and we also see the strain it is putting on him. Only when Watson and his fiance arrive is Holmes snapped out of his near trance. I found this aspect to be very interesting and I loved how it showed a different side of the iconic character.
Overall I was impressed with Sherlock Holmes. I thought that this new envisioning of one of the most iconic characters in all of literature brought a much needed new life that has the potential to not only keep traditional fans interested but also grabbing the attention of new fans like myself. This film has a little bit of everything in it from smarts to action to humor to magic. Everybody can find something to like in this film. Why not start the new year off with a new movie?
I give Sherlock Holmes 8 Double-billed hats out of 10 (Note: Surprisingly, no iconic double-billed hats were used in this film)
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