So I’ll be honest. I really hadn’t seen Robert Downey Jr. in anything other than Tropic Thunder and IronMan, but ever since the first time we saw the preview for Sherlock Holmes, I’d vowed to The Boy that I was going to go see it. After all, how could it go wrong? World-class enigmatic protagonist, Rachel McAdams in Victorian-era bustle dresses, Jude Law as a terse, wiry Watson, clackety cobblestone London, and did I mention IronMan? Clearly I had to go see this movie.
Having had a night for the squee!-don’t-I-wish-I-could-sew! factor to wear off, I have no regrets whatsoever about the film. It was fantastic. Was it a gripping, mind-warping mystery with plot-twists aplenty? No. Were the fight scenes crisp with crystal-clear bone-crunching gore? No. I do like Guy Ritchie’s movies, but don’t understand why the fight scenes are filmed as though he’s taking a bus past the action with a camcorder in hand. We’re there to enjoy — why make scenes gritty and grainy for no reason?
So, we have a fairly straightforward plot, and ho-hum action. Why then am I so enthralled by this film? I am completely won over because this movie attacks my single biggest weakness when it comes to cinema: The Dialogue. I can’t even remember the last movie I saw where I was so delighted by the snappy wit between sharp-tongued characters. (Possibly it was Un Conte de Noel, but I’m not sure.)
Which brings one to the obvious question: should you go see it? The answer is a hearty, Hells yes! Even if you’re not a dialogue junkie the way I am, you won’t be able to deny that the banter and chemistry between Law and Downey Jr. makes this movie. Their relationship, crafted out of impeccable, tiny details (and of course, The Dialogue), drives the whole movie forward, and even if you know from 12 minutes in where the story’s going to end, they’ll still take you with them, and you’ll still want to go. Both are wholly likeable as characters, and their relationship, not subtle but still a little complex, is a beautiful thing to see shift and change as the madness unfolds in crashy fashion around them.
Where is all of my praise for Ms McAdams, you ask? To be honest, I don’t have much to say. She was good, certainly, and definitely added a nice vixeny flourish to the messy business on-screen, but she was overshadowed by the Holmes/Watson dynamic — sort of a third wheel, both story-wise, and in terms of focus (how meta!). With that said, I do think the movie would have been less enjoyable without her, so good job on the casting all-round. Eddie Marsan’s teeth bothered me just as much as they did in Happy-Go-Lucky (seriously, he’s like the male Kirsten Dunst), but once again he manages to work that in his favour for this character. The rest of the cast slid into their roles very nicely; no jarring of the fantasy, although I’m pretty sure most people felt that Mark Strong put it on a little heavily. I didn’t have an issue with it, since he played exactly the villain the story called for.
I’m running out of things to say without descending into an all-out gush about the movie (have I mentioned that the dialogue is superb?) so I’m going to end the review here. Conclusion:
Go see it, but pay attention. While it can be Just Another Action Movie, you’ll get much more out of this one if you’re actually listening to the (admittedly quick) conversations and banter. This is not the movie to choose if you’re tired and just want to watch things blow up.
…And to wrap it up, old system rating: 7.5/9