Holmes' conclusions stream forth from disorderly, chaotic mental clutter

Sherlock Holmes

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            If you are a purist, a longtime lover of Mr. Holmes the cerebral detective, you may resent the liberties taken by director Guy Ritchie in “Sherlock Holmes.” But if you welcome a rollicking yarn, you may love the chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. They bicker endlessly without ever failing to be there, each for the other. On one level, this is a good old fashioned movie reminiscent of the ones that once centered on Jack the Ripper, fog, and London lampposts. On another it is a modern action picture in the frenetic hero mode.

            Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson have been living on Baker Street; Dr. Watson is moving out to marry his fiancé. Holmes resents this disruption to both the partnership and the living arrangements and reveals his resentment in marvelous ways both subtle and not so. Holmes will remain in his superbly cluttered flat, undisturbed now by any orderly influence. And that, of course, is what we love about Holmes: his conclusions and solutions stream forth from disorderly, chaotic mental clutter.

            Urged by the departing Watson to venture outdoors, Holmes replies, “There’s nothing of interest out there for me at all.” He will remain closeted in his flat with the bits and pieces of his experiments. Each thing we see there will become a factor in his solutions. At this moment, that is Holmes’ problem: he is between cases, and he is miserable. He has no one in his life excepting Miss Adler whose picture rests on a table, always in view – an episode from his past, we assume.

            Both Miss Adler (Rachel McAdams) and a new case appear suddenly to pull Holmes from despair into the outside world. Miss Adler, awash in mockery of all the rules of civilized society, returns in a grand rage. Why, Watson asks his friend, did he have to fall for such an adversary? No matter, he did. And together, the three are suddenly immersed in the case of Lord Blackwood, he who is hanged after killing five women and returns magically from the dead to implement his plan to take back the American colonies – among other nefarious goals. With Watson following protectively at his heels, Holmes works through complicated mazes of deduction. I liked best his belt pouch that, like a drop down menu on a computer, slides down to present exactly the tool he needs.

            Director Ritchie, guessing that the contemporary public would accept Holmes only as a newly minted action hero, delivers the physical violence not once, but twice – first as planned in the imagination, then as it actually happens. We are soaked for two hours in a fine evocation of the sewers and warehouses and waterways of Victorian London. Making their messy way through all this, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law become a memorable and possibly definitive Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. May they thrive together in the sequel.


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