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Sherlock Holmes (2009 movie)

A 2009 film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional character of the same name

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However Improbable, What Remains is the Truth

  • Dec 13, 2010
  • by
Lord Blackwood, serial killer and black occultist, has finally been brought to justice. Returning from the grave only gives more weight to his already potent reputation, as well as his ominous predictions of what is to yet to come. Yet, Sherlock Holmes seems too preoccupied with the imminent loss of his life-long bachelor friend and valued assistant, Dr. Watson, to act effectively against Blackwood's schemes.

Love seems to be the only thing to truly confound and successfully elude Holmes in life. Therefore, he seems determined to save his best friend and compatriot, Watson, from his own impending marriage at any cost. The reappearance of Irene Adler, Holmes' own romantic muse, only adds fuel to this fire while further distracting him from the convoluted plots of Blackwood and his various underlings.

Will the call of the hunt cost Watson his domestic happiness? Has the infamously eccentric sleuth finally gone over the edge of reason for good? Can Holmes come to terms with the distressing changes in his vital relationship with Watson before Blackwood pulls off his latest plans for domination? The game is afoot, but it seems our favorite players may be dangerously disconcerted!

My Thoughts

Irene: "Why are you always so suspicious?"
Sherlock: "Should I answer chronologically or alphabetically?"

I ask myself three things after watching any film. 1. Was I entertained? 2. Was I given something entirely new, or thought provoking to enjoy? and 3. Did the film live up to its potential? That last is perhaps the trickiest bit, and I do allow a fair bit of leeway when considering that topic, especially when the film is based on a favorite book or fictional character. Boredom, impatience with pacing or character elements, too many loose ends, or requiring too many leaps of faith are all signs of unfulfilled potential. In the case of Sherlock Holmes, I was entertained on a variety of levels, and walked away from the film with the same satisfied contentment one finds at the end of a good meal.

The action and fight sequences here were highly entertaining, fairly complex, and delivered in a unique manner that highlights the quirky personality of the infamous Sherlock Holmes. This film does a very good job of displaying Holmes' accelerated multi-tasking style of thought, his less constructive addictions, and his social ineptitude. These are not popular aspects of this hero, but they are most certainly an integral part of his make-up and help to make him fallibly human.

Holmes' is most often depicted as a thoroughly competent and self-assured figure. Here, audiences can see a Holmes that is uncertain, ambivalent, childishly petty, manipulative and selfish in his perceived loss of Watson, his only trusted companion. His arrogance here actually helps to humanize him, and provides several comedic moments rather than fashioning a cold and distant Holmes. In this film, we can see why Holmes relies so much upon Watson; not just for the commonplace support of trusted back up in difficult situations, but as his only successful link to Humanity at large.

Throughout this personal struggle, further complicated by the reappearance of his own disastrous love interest, we are given trademark Holmes deductive reasoning that is certain to unravel the convoluted plots of our villain eventually. The fun is watching how it all plays out! Usually we are shown only the positive side of this character with perhaps glimpses of his melancholy or general eccentricity.

I enjoyed this focus on his imperfections, especially his social ineptitude. There is so much to admire in the character of Sherlock Holmes that it seems easy to overlook his failings. The reference to his drug use is a rather quiet reminder from Watson that what he is drinking is meant for use during delicate eye surgeries, not recreational consumption. The good Doctor is not at all shy about putting Holmes in his place though, when the situation calls for it! Watson is presented in an interesting fashion where we can see not only his unfailing admiration of Holmes' brilliance, but also his impatience with Holmes' manipulations and his brotherly devotion that allows him an easy comradery as well as admonitions, ribbings, and the occasional pummeling.

So often we are presented with a Watson that is simple, slavishly devoted, ineptly amusing, or downright unattractive in his own right. This more forceful Watson is far more believable as Holmes' trusted associate, especially during this difficult transition period from bachelor to husband. A difficult time for Watson, Holmes and Mary, Watson's beloved, I was also impressed with how well Mary (Kelly Reilly) establishes her own strength of character amidst the dominant egos of Watson and Holmes in the time given.

I feel we were given a nice balance between action and thought throughout the story. Supporting cast is seamless. Settings and costuming are solid and wonderfully supportive. Certain cliche Holmes icons, like his deerstalker or "Elementary, Dear Watson", have been deliberately avoided, but we are given an excellent mix between artistic license and tradition.

For example, Holmes' excellent but seldom needed fighting ability is displayed well. Although the fighting style used does not match that of Arthur Conan Doyle's character (Holmes' Baritsu vs. Downey's Wing-Chun Kung Fu), they also give viewers a clear understanding of how Holme's vast intellect also figures into his fighting success. The character of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) appears only once in the written works without any great detail, but her expansion here makes sense and supports both story and main characters well. Her relationship with Holmes brings new light to the character.

We are given a date of Friday, November 19, 1891 as a reference point. Holmes' aficionados will know that these events would therefore be taking place during a period where he was presumed dead and not publicly active in the written works. In my opinion, the excellent cast, director Guy Ritchie, writers Michael Robert Jordan, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, and Lionel Wigram, and the extended crew made excellent use of the film's 128 minute run time.

I appreciated the many subtle references to Doyle's much beloved written works while enjoying the fresh approaches the film takes in presenting these enduringly admired characters. There is a lively humor and underlying passion injected that brings a new life and dimension to both Holmes and Watson. The "mystery" aspect is not the focus here, and you'll be disappointed if that is what you are looking for, as we the viewers can see quite well where things are going to go. This is an action/adventure tale paying homage to the immortal Sherlock Holmes.

I look forward to the as yet untitled sequel due out around December of 2011 which will introduce both Mycroft, Sherlock's brother (Stephen Fry), and arnemisis, Moriarty (Jared Harris). With proper development, a focused attention to detail, and greater attention paid to delivering a more challenging storyline, this could become a wonderful beginning to a great trilogy.

"Depend upon it, there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge, you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones." ~ Arthur Conan Doyle

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December 13, 2010
This was good escapist entertainment. I am kinda curious how they'll do Moriarty...excellent review!
December 13, 2010
Fantastic review, Quinn! And I didn't know that there was going to be a sequel, but that sounds like it's something to look forward to. Thanks for sharing!
More Sherlock Holmes (2009 movie) reviews
review by . August 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" stylistically reverses the intentions that we are to expect from both cinematic and non-cinematic outings starring everyone's favorite titular sleuth. While we're used to an intelligent, perplexing labyrinth of a mystery; Ritchie's attempted "update" on the character and the "Sherlock Holmes" universe itself presents us with a mystery that is almost decidedly simplistic yet creatively drawn out for a larger, more modern and mainstream …
review by . December 29, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
FUN, Nicely Acted But the Screenplay is Very
   Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and this character has clearly become a household name in the books of detective thrillers. Once again, Hollywood intends to re-imagine/revive/ re-issue the beloved detective under Guy Ritchie’s direction in 2009’s “SHERLOCK HOLMES”. Many folks would describe this movie as entertaining, fun and a piece of diversion. Diversion is such a loose word to use to describe a movie; after all even a shitty movie can …
review by . December 30, 2009
 ... while spinning in his urn, most likely. Robert Downey Jr once again proves himself to be the best actor of his generation and without him this movie would limp along, and its inconsequential paper-thin plot would be much more grating. Perhaps the biggest crime in the film is that Holmes - as a 2-dimensional vehicle for awesomely-intriguing detective tricks - is given a really lousy case that relies on some massive leaps of logic and an almost physic predictive ability.      …
review by . January 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Through all the grime and soot of old London towne, Holmes found that clue.
It's probably a good thing that I've never read a Sherlock Holmes story as I might have only gone into this movie with a laundry list of facts and tidbits and leaving the theater annoyed at how much was spat on if in fact it was.      With what I know about Sherlock Holmes, being an urbane, professional, intellectual with his cap on his head and calabash in mouth, it was odd to see him a sweaty, dirty, fussy and unshaven pit fighting brawler with a dinky little pipe.  …
review by . May 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
SHERLOCK HOLMES       I wanted to see this movie so bad because I have always been a fan of Holmes and of course of Robert Downey Jr. So I was a bit disappointed when I missed it in the theaters and had to wait for the DVD/Blu Ray release and all that. So as I waited some things went down but eventually it was released. So naturally I went out and had to own this even without seeing it. Still that didn't matter we all wanted to see it so off we went to view the new Holmes movie. …
review by . March 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
  Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his assistant Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) have just closed another case by capturing Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) who has dealt with murder, and been very involved with black magic. Lord Blackwood is hanged for his crimes; however, after several months rumors begin to spread that he is in fact still alive, by apparently using more magic to keep himself from dying. When Blackwood's coffin is opened, it is found that another man is there, and Blackwood's …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Several years ago my brother introduced me to the films of Guy Ritchie. Fun stories, insane amounts of gun fire and some serious profanity. I remember getting my first taste of Jason Statham and not being able to contain my excitement when a fight was about to break out on screen and he was in the scene. Sherlock Holmes brings elements of past Ritchie films and incorporates the style with a classic Holmes story. And just as I yelled for blood during his previous movies, I did the same watching Holmes …
review by . January 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
As 2009 came to a close there were two movies in particular that were released that people had their eye on.  The first was Avatar, James Cameron's amazing visual spectacle.  The other was Sherlock Holmes, which dropped just after Christmas.  When it came to Sherlock Holmes it was hard to say what to think of it.            I rarely delight in movie previews and it's even rarer that I look at a preview and think to myself, "There's …
review by . January 05, 2010
A thoroughly entertaining take on Sherlock Holmes. A lot of UK critics seemed to have a downer on it, saying it runs out of steam, or the bromance elements of the Holmes/Watson relationship got tired, but I don't agree. The story for the most part cracks along, and Downey Jr and Law maintain the odd couple thing ably.       Plus, some fans may be miffed at how the Holmes character is portrayed as a brawling, dirty scruffbag. As I understand it though, …
Quick Tip by . December 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A little slow and boring to start but it gets better and has a very good and unexpected ending. Worth the watch for sure.
About the reviewer
Quinn Blackburn ()
Ranked #125
Hello, my name is Quinn. :o) I also answer to Mom, YaYa, and occasionally Entwife. I enjoy Beauty wherever I find it... Nature, Music, Art in all its forms... I believe these to be true and sacred things … more
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Sherlock Holmes
is a film starring Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law and Rachel McAdams.  The film will be released on Christmas Day 2009.

Sherlock Holmes is a 2009 film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional character of the same name. The film was directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey and Dan Lin. The screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg is based on Lionel Wigram's story and Doyle's characters. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law respectively portray Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The film was released in the United States on December 25, 2009 and on December 26, 2009 in the UK and the Pacific.

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Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: December 25, 2009
Studio: Warner Bros Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures
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