In cinematic history there are only a handful of roles which are continually reprized from one generation to the next. Scrooge springs to mind but even the venerable Ebenezer has not seen so many actors fill that role as have filled the role of Sherlock Holmes. The most recent effort finds the incredibly talented Robert Downey Junior filling the flat at 221B accompanied of course by Jude Law fulfilling the role of Holmes’ sidekick Doctor John Watson. This incarnation of Holmes is a leap away from the overly cerebral and polite Holmes of the early years of cinema and much more physical that the seminal portrayal of Holmes given by the late Jeremy Brett.
Robert Downey Jr. is a wonderful Sherlock Holmes. His portrayal conveys both the gravitas and sudden kinetic energy that embody Holmes in Conan Doyle’s original stories and add to it a layer of originality of expression and motion and grit that distinguish this Holmes as one with which contemporary audiences can relate. In keeping with a reinterpretation of the Doyle canon Jude Law delivers a succinct and intelligent portrayal of the war veteran, Doctor John Watson. Law’s Watson is not as close to the Doyle creation as the David Burke BBC version but he is a much more interesting person. This Watson has more wrinkles, deviation and is more pugnacious that Doyle would ever have imagined. He keeps pace with Holmes physically and intellectually on most fronts save detection. The importance of the more egalitarian relationship between Holmes and Watson in this new interpretation cannot be over stated. This is a team with a leader but both parts of the team are absolutely necessary – a point which is an integral feature of the story in the movie as Doctor Watson is engaged to be married.
Something is happening in the streets of London – something wicked – something evil and only one man has the wherewithal to deal with an opponent who seems to be both invincible and invisible. The only man for the job naturally enough is Sherlock Holmes a man who is battling his own demons as well as helping Watson manage a gambling habit. It gives nothing away to say that the villain of the movie is one of the best to have graced the screen in any Holmes effort. Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is absolutely chilling in his calm and has an insidious presence to which only Holmes seems immune. After performing the seemingly impossible feat of coming back from the dead Lord Blackwood seems to have plans which are nefarious but impossible to piece together. Consistently coming up short for an explanation Holmes and Watson pursue Blackwood with the help/hindrance of the only person to have ever successfully beaten Holmes, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams).
Sherlock Holmes is a wonderful escape from the day to day and has enough twists to keep you guessing as to what is coming next. The acting is superb, the direction inspired and the costuming gorgeous. This contemporary Sherlock Holmes is definitely worth your time.