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