Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 1/1/10
Director: Guy Ritchie
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong

I was cautiously optimistic about this film, and thankfully it doesn't disappoint. This interesting update on the Sherlock Holmes character casts him as a martial artist of all things. While this doesn't entirely work, it is nonetheless very entertaining. A creepy guy named Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is caught practicing witchcraft and put to death for the murder of five young women. When he appears to return from the dead possessing magical powers, the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner Dr. Watson (Jude Law) try to figure out what's going on, while the police attempt to keep London from erupting into panic and anarchy. Holmes' intellectual and romantic rival Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) is also thrown into the mix to spice things up and set the stage for a sequel.

The film is utterly gorgeous to watch, and London is appropriately dark, dreary, dirty, foreboding, and sinister. The city itself is an integral character in telling the story. The sets are superb and the costuming is exquisite. Hans Zimmer's musical score is wonderful and complements the cinematic aesthetic quite nicely. The overall result is a stunning and compelling period piece, spiced up with modern storytelling devices. The acting is quite good, and Robert Downey Jr. plays the brilliantly eccentric Sherlock Holmes with arrogant flair. However, it's Jude Law's performance as the long suffering Watson that steals the show, and he's positively fantastic. The tense dynamic between him and Holmes is delightful and keeps the film from getting bogged down in details and procedure. Rachel McAdams looks wonderful in period dress, but otherwise seems uncomfortable and out of place in Old England. The action scenes are exciting and well paced, but the fight scenes unfortunately suffer from poor editing. The sequence that stands out the most is a series of slow motion explosions that look exceedingly dangerous for the stunt players who were involved. It's a breathtaking piece of work in the spirit of John Woo that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Truly spectacular and worthy of multiple viewings. While the film delves into the absurd and presses beyond the limits of believability, it remains true and consistent to itself and never ceases to be captivating and entertaining. An excellent film on all accounts.