God bless Robert Downey Jr. The man is someone everybody should look up to. He's a real talent, capable of giving performances that bring his character to life, but he's fallible. He found himself down on his luck, arrested for drug charges and forced to undergo court ordered drug treatment programs throughout the late 90's and into the 2000's. Instead of giving up, he bounced back, dropped his nasty habits and finally resurrected his career with excellent roles in Zodiac, Tropic Thunder and the exciting Iron Man franchise. Well, he's done it again with Sherlock Holmes, a delightfully fun movie that takes its 2+ hour length and uses it to its fullest with never a dull moment.
The film begins with Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) as he sneaks his way into a murderer's tomb where Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is about to perform a ritualistic sacrifice on what would be his sixth victim. Just before the big finale, Holmes stops him with the help of his partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law). At his trial, Blackwood is sentenced to death for committing the murders as well as the practice of black magic. Pronounced dead by Watson himself, everything seems to be over, but the graveyard caretaker who works where Blackwood was laid to rest claims to have seen him rise and walk away, presumably with the help of the devil himself. Meanwhile, a beautiful woman named Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who already has a history with the famous sleuth, employs Holmes to crack a case of her own, but everything is intertwined and it is up to Holmes and Watson to get to the bottom of these strange occurrences.
I'll be honest. I don't believe I've ever read a Sherlock Holmes story. I can't be sure because I do feel I'm fairly familiar with the character, but ask me to detail one of his adventures and I couldn't do it. Nevertheless, this movie adaptation is phenomenal, a truly audacious attempt at bringing the old timer into the 21st century and giving him new fervor. It succeeds on nearly every level.
One worry I've heard from fans of the character over the last few months is that they fear this new film will be all action and little investigative deduction, neglecting what made the character so popular to begin with. Well my friends, there's no need to fear. Sherlock Holmes is just as you remember him, albeit updated a bit. He is still a brilliant mind, capable of analyzing his environment and surmising meaning from it. With the slightest stain on your lapel, Holmes can tell everything about you and it's fascinating to hear him talk through his reasoning.
Still, there is action in Sherlock Holmes and the detective lays the beat down on a number of goons, but even this doesn't sacrifice the nature of his character. On a number of occasions, the film slows down during these fight scenes and shows each hit as they land on his opponent while he explains how and why he decided to hit where he does. For instance, one of his opponents is hard of hearing, so smacking him in the side of the head to cause a loud ringing will daze him and allow him to continue his assault. He isn't a great fighter because he has arbitrarily gained the skills required to move the story along. He's a great fighter because he can read his opponent and the environment around him to neutralize him quickly and efficiently. It's actually quite brilliant.
Speaking of brilliant, the whole of the production rounds out in a way unheard of in films nowadays. The superb talent that comes together in this thing is simply astounding. Downey is mesmerizing as the titular character and Law is the perfect partner for him. The two have a chemistry together more resounding than most romance films. Their comedic timing is spot on, their cooperation during fisticuffs is great to watch and they look comfortable together. Put Guy Ritchie, an outstanding director who is yet to make an outstanding movie until now, in there with them and you have a great looking, terrifically acted little picture that you can't help but fall in love with.
The more I think about Sherlock Holmes, the more I love it. Its tone properly sets the mood and it struck a perfect balance between the heart pounding action and deductive reasoning. Furthermore, it crafted a riveting story that comes to a full conclusion while still setting up the next film, of which I hope comes soon. I can't wait to revisit the world of Sherlock Holmes. If it's half as good as this, it will still be worth seeing.
Sherlock Holmes receives 4.5/5