Not so elementary: Sherlock cracks case but leaves audience confounded by plot

In Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. plays the super sleuth who must solve the case of the resurrection of the dangerous Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong).

By Helen Mannion

The most famous detective on Baker Street is back, this time in Guy Ritchie’s live-action adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

In his take on the classic tale, Ritchie succeeds in creating a suspense-filled atmosphere by blending live action with special effects. The plot and the acting, however, fall just a little short.

The film begins in 19th-century London, with Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus) leading the hunt to capture the evil, black magic-practicing Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong, Kick-Ass). On the eve of his execution, Blackwood gives Holmes a cryptic message, which leads to a series of strange and deadly events.

Soon after the execution, Blackwood mysteriously rises from the dead. This event takes Holmes, a reluctant Watson and a femme fatale from Holmes’ past, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams, Wedding Crashers) on a dangerous journey to ultimately expose and destroy the evil lord.

The story is very incoherent and confusing at points. Each clue presented to the audience goes by very quickly and can be missed, leaving the viewer lost and perplexed towards the end of the film.

Downey’s portrayal of Holmes is different and quirky. At times, the only thing separating Holmes from the already bizarre Downey is his attempt at a British accent.

Watson is sensible and much less impulsive than his partner. Law’s performance balances Downey’s brashness in the way that Watson frequently rescues Holmes from his reckless tendencies.

McAdams plays the role of Irene strongly and confidently, yet still manages to retreat to the “damsel in distress” stereotype in the last action sequence of the film.

The actor who is most dead-on in his performance is Strong, in his eerie and creepy portrayal of Lord Blackwood.  His domineering presence allows the audience to experience the paranoia felt by his supporters, who live in constant fear of his powers.

A homoerotic tension brews between Holmes and Watson which exists far beyond their squabbles about Watson’s new fiancée. The two together seemed more like an awkward couple rather than two friends trying to save the city.

The film has its strengths, including the visual effects. With dim, warm lighting, a dark and creepy atmosphere is created to mirror the actions of the characters. The use of slow motion to portray Holmes’ thought process during fights is another recurring technique.

The music, composed by Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight), is rough and edgy and clearly added to create suspense for the viewer.

While Sherlock Holmes has its highs and lows, many enjoyed it, and it was a box office success. Downey, Law and McAdams hold major appeal with audiences, but the overall film is confusing enough to make it a mystery unto itself.

Sherlock Holmes will play tonight and Saturday in the BLC Theater at 7:30 p.m.

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