Of all the much-hyped Christmas movies in 2009, this one stays truest to comforting and accepted movie conventions. From the first moments of an action-packed chase scene, using dark and light over racing horse-drawn carriages, it’s clear the viewer is in for a treat.
Guy Ritchie is back on form and brings a fresh eye to this Sherlock Holmes story. Long-term Holmes fans and those new to the tales will not be disappointed. It’s fast-paced and true to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, without ever forgetting that it will be viewed by lots of people who do not have attention spans.
Robert Downey (no more Junior) is a great Holmes, but could have been more tightly directed. He is fun to watch, but there is a little too much indulgence given by director Ritchie to Downey’s own mannerisms and tics. A little tighter control of Downey’s performance and some reining in would have been a good idea.
Jude Law is a revelation as Watson. I have never been one of his fans, but he brings a tenderness and awareness to his lines and enhances every scene he is in. Just for once, you believe this is a medical man.
Mark Strong makes a great bad guy, although much of the occult used in the plot is, frankly, a pastiche of nonsense. We are in Dan Brown territory, which will delight those who love conspiracy theories, but will leave everyone else gnashing their teeth.
Rachel McAdam is too young to play Irene Adler, but gives the role great energy and style and, like everyone else in this movie, looks terrific.
Kelly Reilly puts in a great turn as Mary, Watson’s fiancee and there really isn’t a weak performance among the rest of the cast.
The plot involves murder and conspiracy and – really – that’s everything you need to know. London shimmers and shines although, ironically, much of the film was shot in New York and at the Chatham dockyards in Kent.
Lots of things go bang, catch fire and explode. People leap from great heights. Time rushes by and the ending sets you up for a sequel in what will undoubtedly be a new Holmes franchise.
Even if you love the more cerebral portrayals of Holmes, you won’t hate this. The melancholy moods, pipe and violin are all there, along with great insight and a hint of intellectual sufferering based on deep knowledge.
It doesn’t break new ground but it’s a really good movie. After some of the movies I have suffered through lately, this is a blessed relief. Go see it and enjoy yourself!