The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 45.0°F | Light Rain Fog/Mist
Article Tools

“Sherlock Holmes” (2009)

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

Rated PG-13 – Now Playing

This is Holmes as you have never seen him.

Director Guy Ritchie took Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebated detective (Robert Downey Jr.) and warped him so much he very well could have been a brand new character. Nevertheless, Sherlock Holmes the movie is a brilliant production that will take you on a dark captivating adventure, with lots of relentless action, veiled mysteries and satisfying surprises.

As a detective movie, Holmes is thoroughly entertaining because it carefully preserves each mystery until a shocking and unexpected revelation. In this movie, the audience often knows even less than the characters and that’s what keeps everyone guessing. The plot is, as expected, highly convoluted and while it is not directly adapted from any of Doyle’s stories, it fits remarkably well in the genre and the period. The film begins with Lord Blackwood being tried and executed for a series of mysterious crimes connected to dark magic. When the string of crimes continues, rumors spread that Lord Blackburn has been resurrected. Holmes is summoned to help with the investigation. What follows is a high-octane race, full of unexpected twists and turns, with Holmes and the police trying to connect the dots and prevent an ominous prediction from coming true.

In stories, Sherlock Holmes delights his fans primarily through the power of his wit. Reason and logic, coupled with a keen instinct for clues are his main weapons. And of course, there is his British eccentricity and predilection for order and finer things in life. Downey Jr.’s Holmes, though is a very different fellow. Downey Jr., who is 5 foot 8, appears insecure and arrogant, disdainful of manners and civilized life. He engages in fights and extreme drunken celebrations, with little respect for his neighbors. He does, though, display a penchant for science and experimentation and the Holmesian ability to pick up on even the tiniest clues. Downey’s acting is incredibly strong and detailed, allowing us to revel in the complexity of Holmes’s mind. I suspect he drew from his own battles with addiction ten years ago to flesh out some of Holmes’s darker side.

We are led to believe that Holmes’s entire life would crumble around him if it weren’t for his good friend Dr. Watson, suavely played by Jude Law. In this movie, Dr. Watson serves a more active role in investigations, and often acts as a moral compass and emotional crutch for Holmes. While Law’s part is somewhat less extensive, Law’s charm and charisma delights.

Perhaps Holmes’s most striking new trait is his bad-assery. While the original character was no stranger of occasional brawls, the new Sherlock Holmes is more like a true action hero, a nineteenth-century Jason Statham or Brad Pitt (both of whom have worked with director Ritchie). Brains and brawn! While Holmes’s mental notes that often foreshadow the fights are humorous and aim at showing the logic behind all actions, when Holmes emerges victorious after single-handedly disbanding a large group of adversaries feels somewhat exaggerated.

The movie’s cinematography receives very high marks. The “film-noir” feel and Ritchie’s highly original camera angles and transitions (many reminiscent of 2002’s “Snatch”) complement the suspenseful moments and thoroughly engage the audience. The MIT crowd will appreciate all the science experiments, presented in great detail. Finally, the movie shrewdly weaves in a secondary plot that introduces an already planned sequel, featuring Professor Moriarty, Holmes’s archnemesis. If this is not convincing enough, rumor has it that Moriarty will be played by no other than Brad Pitt!