Thursday, 10 March 2016

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Sherlock Holmes has been enjoying something of a popular culture renaissance in the last six years or so, with modern-day TV series being produced in both the UK and US, and a pair of big budget Hollywood adaptations.

This is first of the feature film adaptations, and a fine one it is too.  I think one of the biggest things it gets right is its Doctor Watson.  Many past adaptations have tended to make Holmes's associate something of a buffoon, to whom everything must be slowly and clearly explained.  So treated, he becomes merely a narrative crutch: an audience surrogate to whom Holmes can render exposition.

The John Watson of this film, on the other hand, is a tough, two-fisted ex-soldier.  He may not be as brilliant as the mercurial Holmes - though who is? - but he is an expert in his own fields of medicine, fisticuffs, and firearms.  He's also considerably better at dealing with other people than his irascible partner.

Holmes and Watson are called in to deal with the crimes of a certain Lord Blackwood, who has been murdering young women.  They catch him and he is executed, all within the first fifteen minutes of the film.  So it's rather a short movie, then.

Well, except that of course Blackwood's death is merely the beginning of the real mystery, as the villain returns from beyond the grave and begins amassing the support of powerful men with his apparent command of sorcery.

Is Blackwood truly a master of the Dark Arts?  And how does Irene Adler - Holmes's former paramour and the only criminal to ever outwit him - fit into the matter?

This film offers the answers in a rollicking ride that is helped immensely by the strong performances of all the central players.  Fun stuff, and worth a look as long as you're not the sort to get all sniffy about it being an action film first and a detective story second.

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