It is very rare when a movie comes along that’s entertaining, engaging, and well-made all at the same time. Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie, 2009) is one of those movies. It’s loosely based on the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and it stands on its own as a truly good movie. It combines excellence in acting, screenwriting, cinematography, and music into an example of how Hollywood filmmaking should be.
It’s just another day in 19th-century London when Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) captures dangerous mass murderer Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). Before Blackwood hangs for his murders, he tells Holmes he will rise from the dead and murder three more people. Holmes dismisses his warnings, but three days later, Blackwood’s tomb explodes from the inside and his body goes missing. The cemetery groundskeeper claims to have seen Blackwood rise from the dead. Holmes and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) must discover the truth behind Blackwood’s resurrection before he kills more people. Holmes and Watson also have to juggle puzzling visits from Holmes’ old sweetheart Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) and deal with Watson’s imminent engagement and subsequent egress from the apartment at Baker Street.
The plot is very engaging and does not lack in action. There are several thrilling scenes where Holmes and Watson pummel bad guys with their fists, canes, or even with electric shock. While Holmes seems more like a Power Ranger at times than the intuitive genius of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, he still used his intellect to solve the details of the case. There is also a good amount of comic relief with Watson and Holmes’ amusingly volatile relationship. Love also plays a part in this movie with Holmes and Irene Adler and Watson and his fiancée. Some elements of the plot weare mystifying, especially when Lord Blackwood supposedly kills people after he rose from the grave, but it all comes to a satisfying close at the end.
In addition to the plot, the overall style of the film is excellent. The costumes are beautifully authentic, the lighting aesthetically pleasing, the sets satisfyingly realistic, and the music wonderfully enchanting. Sherlock Holmes was nominated for two Oscars – Best Achievement in Art Directing and Best Original Soundtrack – that I think it certainly should have won. Also, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law handle playing these beloved characters very well, and Rachel McAdams and Mark Strong are great supporting cast members. One particularly outstanding scene is when a bomb explodes while Holmes, Irene Adler, and Watson are standing on a pier at night. The bomb goes off in slow motion as Holmes frantically runs toward a terrified Irene, lighting the dark London night with golden flames. The sound of explosions is muted underneath a mournful song. The cinematography, music, and acting make this scene my favorite.
Overall, Sherlock Holmes is a classic example of a good, big-budget, Hollywood blockbuster without being too corny or hackneyed. Its plot makes the audience laugh, shake their heads at the seemingly inexplicable mystery, and cheer for Holmes and his friends. This combined with excellence in art, directing, soundtrack, and acting make me recommend Sherlock Holmes very highly.