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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » February 4, 2010
The world of movies
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Sherlock Holmes
February 4, 2010 By Witold Żygulski   
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The premiere of Sherlock Holmes prompted a critic with boundless patience to count up the number of films and television shows that have featured Britain's most famous British detective: 212 to date. This time, fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might be in for a shock with this effort from Guy Ritchie (Snatch; Revolver; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). The resulting movie has little in common with the literary original and instead aims to appeal to younger audiences, featuring references to several recent blockbusters.

Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.-Iron Man, Zodiac, U.S. Marshals) is a rather scruffy loner who probably overuses alcohol and other substances, and who likes to supplement his income by taking part in brutal boxing bouts. In his spare time, he obsessively pursues hobbies such as training flies to the sound of violin music and testing new pharmacological agents on the extremely patient dog of his roommate, Dr. Watson (Jude Law-Enemy at the Gates, Cold Mountain, The Road to Perdition). Watson here is nothing like the plump, benevolent and befuddled character from Conan Doyle's novels and, like Holmes, is something of an expert in fist fighting and shooting, while his lavishly ornamented walking stick hides a deadly blade. The two treat running around London chasing after murderers and other degenerates as a pleasant leisure activity.

In the opening scenes Holmes and Watson, outnumbered by opponents, engage in a short, violent struggle and manage to prevent the fifth in a sequence of ritual murders targeting young women carried out by a sect led by Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong-Body of Lies, Syriana, Stardust), a madman with fiery eyes and an aristocratic manner. The villain is sentenced and executed, but shortly afterwards he comes back from the dead, just as he told Holmes he would. This comes as a shock to Watson, who pronounced Blackwood dead himself.

As it turns out Blackwood, like many an on-screen egomaniac, is hatching evil plans of global magnitude. For instance, he aims to reclaim for the British Crown a former overseas colony known as the United States. But first, he has to seize power in Britain, which he plans to accomplish by resorting to what we would nowadays call a terrorist attack in the heart of London. Holmes and Watson need to contain an evil force that they cannot fully comprehend. Their ally-or adversary?-in their efforts is Irene Adler (Rachel MacAdams-State of Play, Red Eye), a professional thief and the only person who has a history of outsmarting Holmes, possibly because the detective is unhealthily fascinated by her.

The plot of Sherlock Holmes is at times reminiscent of Ron Howard's Angels & Demons in that the main characters get to solve a string of puzzling murders committed in London in a manner that seems related to the mysterious symbolism of the four elements. There are more such borrowings and movie aficionados will have no difficulty spotting them.

What makes Sherlock Holmes stand out is the cinematography by Philippe Rousselot (Constantine, Planet of the Apes, Lions for Lambs). Using meticulous sets and superb special effects, the film recreates a fabulous image of London. The characters' boat ride on the Thames, the final clash on Tower Bridge and many other scenes are almost as memorable as paintings by great artists seen in museums.
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