Posted by: Dr P | December 28, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

Is there any better way to spend a chilly Boxing Day evening than with a trip to the cinema for an eagerly-anticipated blockbuster featuring two of my favourite actors, and one of the greatest literary creations of all time? Well, yes, there are probably dozens, but this is a family forum, so you can put those thoughts to bed right now!

Having spent 4 hours in the perishing cold playing cricket (yes, cricket), I needed something to warm the cockles (behave) and this delivered in spades.

Basil Rathbone is of course the iconic Sherlock Holmes. When it comes to the silver screen adaptations of Conan Doyle’s masterly detective, there has been none finer, and yet I feel that should more movies follow (and they surely will, given the cliffhanger upon which this ends) then Robert Downey Jr will push him close.

Downey’s portrayal of Holmes borders perfectly between comic timing, pathos, self-deprecation and a completely lunatic streak of brilliance which underpins his entire being. A chemist, scholar, inventor, master of disguise, and detective par excellence, Holmes is indeed a genius – and yet a flawed genius, with his self-loathing, his overbearing manner and his lack of social nicety. It’s the ideal character for Downey, a Hollywood star with his own fair share of “issues”.

Yet every great detective needs a sidekick, and while Downey may become a great Sherlock Holmes, I found myself equally excited by Jude Law’s Dr Watson, certainly his best big screen performance in a long while. After nannygate and the subsequent romantic fiascos Mr Law has founf himself in, his star had slipped quite a bit, yet this will once again endear him to the masses I feel. The interplay with Downey is absolutely superb, indeed it’s their chemistry that gives this film much of its substantial charisma and appeal.

Yet what of the plot? The main thrust surrounds the mysterious Lord Blackwood, a peer of the realm whose dabblings in satanic rites lead to his arrest and apparent execution early on. Yet when Blackwood then rises from the grace and sets about a reign of terror and revenge, the forces he unleashes are set to take over London’s criminal and social hierarchy. To counter this upturn in the dark arts, the “higher powers” of the land turn to Sherlock Holmes, a man both respected and feared by the police. The subsequent game of cat and mouse, as Holmes pursues Blackwood, is thrown into further confusion by the appearance of Irene Adler, a woman of intelligence and cunning which matches that of our hero – indeed their previous romantic dalliance adds an extra sparkle to the story, and throws Holmes into confusion at times. The delicious Rachel McAdams clearly revels in her role here.

As the plot unfurls and we see Holmes working through the evidence to unearth all the secrets surrounding Blackwood, we become aware of an even greater force at work – one which is presumably to be unleashed in the next film of this undoubted franchise.

I must confess I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through Victorian London – both the high classes and the seedy underbelly of the capital are well-realised, with Holmes parlaying with the lords of the land and yet still partaking in underground fights and liaisons with the poorer classes. It’s the rich diversity of life on offer that adds yet another layer to this movie.

Bravo to all concerned. It is not flawless, yet the stellar casting ensures that you should thoroughly enjoy this movie, if only for the key central performances. I should also tip a nod to Mark Strong, who plays Blackwood in a particularly devilish way. Hats off!

Far, far better than I expected, and a fine way to round off my cinemagoing for what was a truly excellent 2009 at the movies!

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