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February 11, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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Sherlock Holmes

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There’s a lot to be said for escapism. When I’m not in the mood to be intellectually or emotionally challenged by a film per se, I can easily pop on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow or The Sting and immerse myself in a world removed from my own. The troubles of my real life evaporate and I become submerged, taking in the sights, sounds, people and events of a universe that I can safely extract myself from when the film reaches the end of its running time.

It doesn’t matter how I’m entertained or how I’m drawn into the world in question—if I’m drawn in and entertained while inside, I’ve successfully escaped. The film has succeeded. Sherlock Holmes is a prime example of escapist cinema succeeding, a ridiculous, yet ridiculously enjoyable, action-adventure romp with great sights, sounds, people and events.

The plot is as follows—after busting the unhinged Lord Blackwood in the process of a ritual sacrifice, Sherlock Holmes is told by Blackwood that more people will die, and that, very soon, the world as he knows it will end. Holmes looks to prove Blackwood wrong, and so begins a series of adventures across London as he and his reluctant companion, Dr Watson, track the path of darkness right to its ugly heart.

While this trail may be dark—and the grey streets of stylised-period London don’t help matters—it is nonetheless a thrilling one, filled with explosions, fight scenes, one-liners, grand set-pieces, magic, great performances and a hefty dose of fun. In fact, it can easily be said that this re-imagination of the great detective is nothing if not fun, even if it is flawed.

A lot of that fun factor comes from the two leading men, as the chemistry between Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson is pretty much impeccable. They play off each other so well that it feels like they’ve been (slightly strained) friends for years, and they give the film a breezy jubilance that’s hard to deny.

Separately, the two are equally good, Law playing Watson almost like a harried lover-cum-friend and Downey Jr playing Holmes like the brilliant eccentric he should be, always chasing a thought but never so long as to let it get away on him. On the opposite side of the moral compass is Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood, and while he may look like a villain from a Wallace & Gromit short, he is typically great to watch as the sneering, manipulative cultist.

Of course, Sherlock Holmes has problems. The mystery at the centre of the film isn’t exactly one that leaves you constantly guessing, playing more like a slightly unpredictable, supernatural version of the Korean action film Shiri. As a result, the film toys with cliché a bit too often for one’s comfort, and the action-adventure ground it treads often feels far too worn. There’s also the occasional misstep elsewhere, be that in the normally dependable Rachel McAdams’ less-than-stellar performance or in the scriptwriters’ failure to follow through on a couple of jokes set up as running gags.

However, these are not problems that have any lasting effect on how damned entertaining this Holmes is, from Ritchie’s kinetic camerawork to Downey Jr and Law’s great performances, from Hans Zimmer’s infectious score to the excellent action set pieces (the showdown at the shipping yard and the finale on the unfinished of Tower of London are both fantastic). Sherlock Holmes is an enchantingly entertaining entry into the Holmes canon, and while he may not be your typical interpretation of the man, he certainly is a well-realised one.

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  1. Merrilee says:

    I agree!
    This movie was really fun and I was totally willing to forgive plot holes because RDJ and JL are so engaging on screen.
    Rachel McAdams was also lovely.
    It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s very entertaining.

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