It was McManus from The Usual Suspects who said, "There is nothing that can't be done," and thus there's no reason stodgy old Sherlock Holmes can't come off as a vibrant and rollicking good time at the theater. Which it does. It reminds me of the solid parts of a Tim Burton film, the muted palette, the delving into the macabre -- but it avoids the Burton pitfalls, too (lack of story cohesion, a fascination with style). Sherlock Holmes feels like the start of a mega-franchise, a Pirates of the Caribbean-level foundation for Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law to build upon. Essentially, I dug it. If you get nothing else from this review then please get that.
It's the Victorian Age in England, and we can deduce it's the year 1887 based upon the character's mythology. Holmes and Watson are sharing a London apartment. Sherlock is the crackerjack sage, able to detect more than any other mortal using sight, sound, touch, smell, and his prodigious intellect. Watson is the ever-present sidekick; he's more socially capable and straightforward in speech and deed. The mystery of the film is launched immediately, no beginning credits, and Guy Ritchie's directorial touch can be felt right off the bat. Ritchie has always been the best "fight scene" guy in the business, and he adds a modern "tough fella" element to the foppish Holmes character. Oh, and Rachel McAdams! She's good here, and it's nice to see this side of her. She's devilish and resourceful as Irene Adler, the romantic interest and potential downfall of Sherlock.
The villain? Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood. He's a conjurer of expensive tricks, and he's out for blood after Sherlock and Watson foil one of his early plans. The film fluidly transitions from comedy to quasi-suspense (we're not talking Rear Window here) and moves quickly save for about 45 minutes in. Yes, the one flaw I can point to is that by starting quickly the film feels longish in the middle. It's the same phenomenon you feel when you're going 70 miles per hour in heavy traffic: you're moving at a nice clip, but you can't tell because you've been going that speed for too long.
Overall though, this is a nice win for Guy Ritchie and company. It's very fun, but not in the sanctimonious manner of the "this is all very important!" Avatar. It's just pure entertainment, something that's been sorely missing this year. I would heartily recommend this to people who like smart films, to audiences looking to get away, to folks who enjoy snappy dialogue and dynamic pacing. There's a scene early on where slo-mo is intermingled with voice-over, a method that would seem cheap and contrived if not for the prodigious talent involved. By putting you inside the head of Holmes, the film allows you to connect with the character early and often. That's the trick of Sherlock Holmes, taking older source material and infusing it with new life. You've got to sit back and enjoy a film that takes you away, to another era, while utilizing the best of modern techniques to stay relevant. Some will dismiss this as a "popcorn film" -- but I deem it a blessed escape. Enjoy Downey and Watson's interplay, the action, the comedy that unfurls in every scene. Why not? You've earned it. You've survived another year at the movies! So, what's stopping you? Buy a ticket. Let the good times roll. [source: www.film.com]