Sherlock Holmes Review

Those grotty streets of London town have been traipsed by so many greats wishing to adapt the role of Sherlock Holmes to the big screen. As unlikely a candidate Robert Downey Jr. may be, his eponymous role as Sherlock Holmes under the watchful eye of director Guy Ritchie is well-rounded and realised with a love for the source material. It takes certain leniencies with the broad stylings of Arthur Conan Doyle, and represents them with a cluttered, comfortable iconography. With such a dedication to the role, it is unsurprising that Sherlock Holmes, while not the most faithful of adaptations, is still a tremendous turn for all included. Characters and casting choices that feature around the titular role make for an effective crash of Doyle’s best bits.  

Most of all is the inclusion of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) who displays a masterful grasp of what the character represents. It is the desire of Holmes, a jealousy that runs through rather marvellously. Downey Jr. brings this to life with an eccentricity inherent to the famous sleuth and Jude Law his faithful companion, Dr. Watson. Their chemistry together is energetic and frantic, with the hard-man tropes of the Ritchie style brought into the mould. It makes for an inherently comfortable, but thematically different bond between the two residents of 221B Baker Street. Law feels exceptionally comfortable in his role. A state of passive-aggressiveness towards Holmes, along with enough of a backstory and accurate historical junctures to give his character a layer of depth.  

Capturing the moody aesthetic so synonymous with the broader works of Arthur Conan Doyle, but adding a flair and entertaining creativity only Ritchie could manage, Sherlock Holmes is the best of two artistic values. It is not wholly accurate or inclined to agree with the words and work of Doyle, but the beauty there is the adaptability of this infamous literary figure. It is surprisingly accurate, more so with the smaller details than those of great value. Holmes is an inventor of strange objects, the silencer, for instance. He is also an addict mired by drugs that seemingly devolve his physical state but devise his brilliant mind. It is the relationship he has with these substances and the good doctor John Watson that Ritchie realises is so important to the backdrop of muddy, industrial London. It works well. Very well.  

But where it lacks is in its villains. A generic order of shady descriptions, a cult-like figure and a decent performance from Mark Strong pull what it can out of villains that are, essentially, like many of the others. They do not stand out particularly well, but when you have Law and Downey Jr. dominating the screen so well, it is hard to edge in another strong performance. Dedicated journeyman Eddie Marsan makes an appearance too as Inspector Lestrade, taking the inspector from bumbling fool to tough-as-old-boots but ever-reliant on the world’s greatest detective. Who can blame him? Holmes is on top form throughout this Ritchie adaptation, one that blends the classic works of Doyle with the hard-hitting choreography and moody depictions Ritchie can offer.  

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