Sherlock Holmes Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated December 25th, 2009 at 9:33 pm,

Short version: If you want to finish 2009 with a fun, entertaining movie – go see Sherlock Holmes.

sherlock holmes review Sherlock Holmes Review
Screen Rant reviews Sherlock Holmes

I had high hopes going in to Sherlock Holmes, and I’m happy to report that director Guy Ritchie, composer Hans Zimmer, Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law came together to exceed my expectations. Now do keep in mind that I am not comparing this to the classic character as portrayed in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories – not being a fan of the genre, I read a Sherlock Holmes story once, a LONG time ago and have no memory of it.

Downey Jr, of course, plays Sherlock Holmes with Jude Law along as Dr. Watson. Rachel McAdams appears on the scene later on in the film as an ex-love interest of Holmes. As the film opens, it is apparant that Holmes and Watson work in concert with the local police, although there is some (friendly?) friction between Holmes and police inspector Lastrade (Eddie Marsan).

Right from the opening moments we get a feel for the energy level of the film and insight into the way Sherlock thinks and acts – the screenwriters (three of them) and Guy Ritchie came up with a kind of flash forward method where we see him map out what he is going to do (in this case, disable a guard) and then we see him follow through. Frankly, I was thankful for the flash forward which was step by step and in slow motion, because when the fight actually took place it was shot using those annoying close-in quick-cuts which made it very difficult to follow.

The target of Holmes and Watson is Lord Blackwood (played quite menacingly by Mark Strong), who has been murdering young women and is preparing to murder/sacrifice one in some apparantly satanic ritual at the start of the movie. He is stopped by our dynamic duo and just as they are finishing up the police arrive.

Blackwood is captured but even behind bars he is menacing, intimidating and full of confidence – despite the fact he is sentenced to hang, he assures Holmes that he will be resurrected and will kill again prior to bringing about great change in the world. Of course Holmes must piece together how Blackwood manages to come back to life and has to try to figure out what he is up to and stop him.

I don’t know how well this film would have worked were it not for Robert Downey Jr. in the role – but with him in it, we have in this movie one of the most interesting characters I’ve seen on screen since Brad Pitt played Tyler Durden in Fight Club. He was fascinating to watch with all his personality quirks and you could almost see the gears turning in his head when his deductive powers kicked into high gear. Downey plays the role as a tortured genius – he is just so much smarter than everyone else and so in tune with discerning the details of what is going on around him (to the point of distraction) that it makes him quite anti-social and reclusive. One of my favorite lines from the movie (by Holmes) was when he talked about “twisting facts to suit theories when one should twist theories to suit facts.” Reminded me of a little worldwide debate going on at the moment. simple smile Sherlock Holmes Review

robert downey jr sherlock holmes1 Sherlock Holmes Review

Jude Law filled out the Dr. Watson character with much more presence than just a sidekick. He was a full fledged character in his own right and while he didn’t take any guff from Holmes, his friendship and love of adventure kept drawing him back in (he was trying to extricate himself from the relationship in order to get engaged). Early in the film Rachel McAdams played the strong female lead – a match for Holmes’ ingenuity, but by the end of the film she was unfortunately relegated to the standard damsel in distress.

jude law sherlock holmes Sherlock Holmes Review

As to the villain, Mark Strong has a dark, eerie look about him that was perfect for the role – and it was interesting to see which way they would go with his character when it came to his powers over the “dark side.” (I was pleased with the direction they took, which made sense and fit in with the universe they created in the film.)

mark strong sherlock holmes Sherlock Holmes Review

Guy Ritchie did a great job of mixing humor and danger, and the choice to go with Hans Zimmer for the music was a winner – I absolutely loved the choices they made for the soundtrack… a lively and at times percussive mix that just highlighted the excitement.

While this film has its dark elements, I have to say it was a lot of fun overall… I had a smile on my face through most of the film – and for what it is: A fun action/adventure movie with humor, danger, a good story and great characters, it knocks it out of the park. The only reason I didn’t give it a full 5 star rating is because I was disappointed with how they handled Rachel McAdams’ character as the film went on. It would have been great if they had portrayed her as strong through the entire film instead of having her need rescuing towards the end. Frankly that was pretty clich├ęd. A fellow reviewer (Ed Douglas of Coming Soon) put it well when he said the film was a cross between Batman Begins and the first Pirates of the Caribbean. simple smile Sherlock Holmes Review

On a side note, I’m very curious how fans of the original stories will react to the film.

If you’re considering taking the kids to this, you might want to skip it if they’re under 10 or so due to the violence/deaths in the film which might be disturbing to them. Other than that, I highly recommend you go check out Sherlock Holmes.

If you want to discuss the film in detail, including plot spoilers, head on over to our Sherlock Holmes Spoiler Discussion.

And here’s a chance for you to be a movie rater – what did you think of Sherlock Holmes?

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Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

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  1. Oh good! Glad to read this … we’re going to see it tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it even more now!

  2. I’m a big fan of the literary character of Holmes. And I won’t be dissapointed with the film version because I have a simple understanding of one thing that many complainers and whiners forget. It’s an ADAPTATION. If you can understand this, than you can enjoy the film quite enormously.

    Drew McWeeny of HitFlix.Com best states that,

    “Most audiences have no idea what the “real” Sherlock Holmes is like. They base their knowledge of the character on a few surface details, and they’ve been quite vocal about how upset they are by the way Guy Ritchie and Joel Silver and Robert Downey Jr. are “ruining” the character.

    Only… they’re not.

    In fact, I’d say “Sherlock Holmes” represents not a radical reinterpretation of the character, but instead a nearly revolutionary return to the genuine pulp roots of what Doyle originally envisioned. No matter how beloved the stories have become, and no matter how much technical skill Doyle brought to the table (quite a bit, for the record), his stories were pulp adventure that followed a rigorous formula.”

    He also makes a comment about the action, “Oh, yes… the action scenes. This is probably the most controversial choice made with this new run at the character, and it shouldn’t be. After all, Conan Doyle himself wrote the ultimate confrontation between the genius of Holmes and the genius of his arch-enemy Moriarty as a fistfight above a waterfall. Doyle has always been clear about the fact that Holmes was trained in mixed martial arts, huge at the time in London, and the rules of boxing, both Queensbury and street, which makes sense. Why wouldn’t a genius who frequently puts himself in harm’s way learn how to handle himself physically?”

    Sorry for all the large quotes. But McWeeny, of “Moriarty” fame from AICN states this better than I can.

  3. @Ash Ali…

    You made your case rather well. And after reading this review… I’m sold! :)

  4. wow!!!
    cant wait 4 sunday….i was kinda hoping the year would finish a hat-trick with Up in the air, avatar and now, sherlock holmes

  5. omg vic a higher rating than avatar, i know they’re different movies but still anyway, i’ve been catching on other versions of holmes mostly the jeremy brett version. he’s an AMAZING actor and his holmes is spot on i have no doubt downey will be the best holmes yet though

  6. Thanks for the great review, Vic. And the great website. I really enjoy it.

    Take care. Merry Christmas.

  7. I’m going to wait for a matinee showing on Monday.

    Sounds like this won’t disappoint.

  8. Yeah, I have to say that when I walked out of Avatar I took a look at how I was feeling, asked myself “did I love it?” and the answer was “no.” However walking out of this film I could most definitely say that I loved it. :)


  9. Sounds like Strong’s character is Jack the Ripper..Ripper was killing right about the same time as the era in this movie..Is that how he is presented more or less Vic?

  10. Was The Ripper thought to have powers from The Dark Side or engage in satanic Rituals?

  11. Vic ,How a bout a spoiler thread for Sherlock Holmes?
    I wont be able to see it until next week ,
    But I still think its a good idea.

  12. Nice review dude. Merry Christmas

    I have the Reichenbach Falls Print by Sidney Paget framed and hanging over my mantle.

    You could say I’m a fan of Literary Holmes and the Jeremy Brett version. I had thought the commercials looked like some dumb goth MTV-sh short attention span aimed at the riddlin adled slow witted crowd, films. Hopefully it was only the typical stupid hollywood marketing approach to make things seem dumb and hip for what they wrongly percieve as a slowwitted fatso movie going audience

    Too me Jeremy Brett is and always be Holmes but now I want to see this film and it seems for the first time they actually got Watson right in terms of age and temperment

  13. I grew up on Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and other classic detective stories. My image of Sherlock is definitely not Downey (someone taller, more suave perhaps) but then again I was wrong about Keaton as Batman too; so I’m keeping an open mind. Yes and though Conan’s Holmes was more cerebral than physical I understand that a blockbuster movie in these times it would not make.

    So I’m keeping an open mind about this adaptation. Heck, it can’t be as bad as the upcoming adaptation/re-interpretation of the Robin Hood legend. Yes, with Downey and Jude Law’s genius- I think I’ll trust Vic’s rating for this one.

  14. I just saw it today,and I thought that it was really good.I can only barely remember watching the old Shurlock as a kid,but I really like the dynamic between RDJ and Jude Law.I really don’t remember the old Shurlock and Holmes character having that type of back and forth relationship.I also don’t remember in the old Holmes,Watson being close to Shurlock’s equal.It always seemed that Watson was hanging on Holmes’ coattails,but this time around,you could really tell that Holmes really needed Watson.I’m not saying that they are of equal intellect,but it seems that the new version closed the gap quite a bit,or maybe I’m just totally remembering it wrong.

    The biggest thing I like is the fact that Guy Ritchie really stepped up his game to do this movie.This is the first movie that I know of that he didn’t write the screenplay,so I’m sure that he was well out of his comfort zone,especially considering that his comfort zone seems to consist of British thugs and gangsters.So a hearty hand chap to him for taking a leap and coming out with a very well made movie.

    I would have to say that this is probably in my top 5 favorites of the year,along with The Hurt Locker,The Road,Saw VI(hey,I love these movies even if others don’t),and of course District 9.

  15. Saw the film this afternoon. Our chosen showtime was sold out so we ended up catching the next one – and there was a line of people waiting to get in when our showing was over; I’ve never seen such a crowd – but then, this is the first time I’ve been to the theater on Christmas day.

    Anyway, I have to say that I agree with much of Vic’s review. This film was a lot of fun and the Downey/Law chemistry was great.

  16. Big fan of the holmes lit. I’m currently reading Valley of Fear just to get into the Holmes spirit. I think this is dif from a lot of the other holmes movies but I really enjoyed this version. Yes, Watson is a stronger character than he appears in many of the books, but I don’t think it is out of place at all. I loved all the name dropping they did from holmes stories. So many of the great holmes characters are brought to life in the film and that was one of my fave parts. I loved the way it was written and laughed and laughed. I have no complaints at all about the film. The banter between holmes and watson was wonderful too. I think the personalities of holmes and watson are somewhat up to interpertation and I really enjoyed this one. Great, great film

  17. @Vic

    Once again I have to say how much I love the site, have not come across a movie you’ve reviewed that I have not almost completely agreed with. I was worried about Sherlock Holmes with some of the initial buzz, but now I can go into the theater with piece of mind.

  18. i wanna see this film but am not a big jude law fan and its putting me off seeing it

  19. @Demo

    I’m not really either. I don’t know what it is about him that bugs me, but there’s something about him. Maybe it’s just the roles he tends to play? Anyway, when they cast him I just screamed nooooo! However, he’s great in this role, I mean perfect. Don’t worry and don’t miss this amazing movie!

  20. @Sam

    It’s nice to hear that a fan of the books enjoyed the film – I was really wondering about that. As to Moriarity, I don’t don’t believe they actually ever showed his face in the film (did they?).


    Thanks, man, I appreciate it. :)


    I’m not a huge fan of of Jude Law (don’t dislike him) but I agree that he really hit all the right notes here. I loved seeing a Watson that wasn’t a schlub. I always wondered why a super-genius like Holmes would ally himself with someone who was kind of a doddering guy (and certainly didn’t come across like a doctor). Here, the relationship works really well.


  21. @Vic – no, they never showed Moriarity’s face.

    I’m not a Law fan either – but he did well in this film. Their chemistry was great, imo.

  22. Loved it! Don’t miss this one!!
    (Avatar is no. 2 at the box office btw.)

  23. It is being reported that Holmes made 24.5 million and Avatar made 23 million on CHristams Day..both records by the powerful punch..ending 2009 nine on a great note for Hollywood…Warner Brothers will cross the 2 billion dollar box office dollar mark on Saturday..WOW!! That’s never been done before by a studio..

  24. I really liked the style and “taste” of this movie and was very pleasantly surprised.


    — Downey sits comfortably in Holmes “shoes” without question.

    — Love the breakdown of soon-to-be-wreaked violence/death is akin to his breaking down of the solutions to problems he and his “team” come across. That could have been so haphazard and it was really pulled off well.

    — The costuming was beyond reproach – ultra-high-level stuff.

    — Vic mentioned the soundtrack and I love it’s quirkiness. It fits in wonderfully with the color scheme and pace.

    — All Plausible: For those that wanted to like Wild Wild West, this is a great sample of how you make “things futuristic that appear in the past” work. The hearkening to “wireless radio” as “the way of the future” is perfect.

    — Law is in perfect support role, but isn’t BUMBLING. Thank you Guy Ritchie/powers that be.

    Only a very few, nitpicky negatives:

    — Sense of mystery is where? I know they’re trying to keep us “up to date” and “not lost” but did anyone ever feel a sense of “mystery” during the entire movie? The Moriarty arc, yes, but the rest? Not really, because Holmes explains every single piece before you could ever hope to “know/figure it out”
    SPOILER ======================================
    ======= Last Chance, Freak…=========

    — What if you actually kill the woman lead? You’d create some real rage for Holmes to “use” and swoop in and whole-hog kick Blackwoods ass AND surely, beyond a reasonable doubt, there will be more women in Sherlocks life. I didn’t care for the perspective of making it look like she fell 20 stories and oops – she only fell several, landed on her back and is find and ready for smootchies and banter. When you remove peril, you remove storytelling.

    — Mumbly, Mumbly: There are several instances (and why this will be a PERFECT open-captioned movie for me) where Holmes “says things” and it’s either just so talking into his chest-sounding or is accompanied with the quirky (and brilliant) soundtrack that I can’t actually hear what he’s saying. Don’t misunderstand this – Downey is a natch in this role, there’s just several places where he’d have benefitted form being more articulated maybe?

    A good solid film that I’ll surely get on DVD and Blu-ray.

  25. Something I also missed: the use of “black magic”. In serveral places they’ve even tweaked the scene/what you see to make it look like there’s actual black magic going on, when in reality, as Holmes will undoubtedly find in all instances, it’s mostly stagecraft/pulling the hypnotic wool over people’s eyes (ie the scene where Blackwood makes American liaison burst in to flames, all women are somehow black-magically wooed into killing themselves, etc). Great stuff and even greater as I break it down in a review style (ahhh, the power and thought of review…)

  26. @ Mike Wilkerson

    I totally agree with you about your point of not being able to understand some of the dialog.

    I thought that it was a combination of soft/under the breath talking combined with a sometimes thick British accent.

    There were plenty of times that if I was left wondering what they said,and it seemed that it was always at the end of a sentence.

    Other than that,I thought that the movie was fantastic.I think that the “real mystery” was how Blackwood was performing his so called magic,which was all explained at the end of the movie,when all of the conflict was over.

  27. @Longshanks – I had the same issue you did with some of the dialogue. It was like it took my brain a bit to process what I’d just heard, and then it had to rush to catch up with what was currently being said. I think as well that it was the accent and the rapid pace of the dialogue. Definitely something that you had to keep the mind and ears focused on the entire time – i.e., this was not just a simple popcorn flick for me. I had no problems understanding the girl’s speech, but that was because she was American. :-p

  28. Interesting… I’m pretty hard of hearing but I didn’t have an issue with understanding the dialog.