In a large departure from previous adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, Guy Ritchie takes the director's helm and shows us all his vision of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective. Taking the lead as Holmes is the reinvigorated Robert Downey Jr., complete with pipe and hat and Jude Law as the venerable Dr. John Watson.
Guy Ritchie's interpretation of the story immediately starts by thrusting us directly into the action and mystery surrounding Lord Blackwood , played by Mark Strong, after his dramatic return from the dead. Also starring is Rachel McAdams as Holmes's former love who returns to give him more grief as Watson prepares to marry his fiancé and end his crime fighting adventures.
What differs from other interpretations of the famous character is how Ritchie brings his sense of flare and snappy dialogue that we have seen in his other films like Snatch and RocknRolla that suit Sherlock Holmes well. The movie begins with an immediate brisk pace which is exciting and makes this blockbuster enjoyable for everyone. Ritchie's gritty take on Holmes keeps the film grounded when some of the action gets over the top but is balanced out with the clever and witty dialogue.
Robert Downey Jr. has once again found a role that he plays like it is second nature. As Holmes, Downey shows us many levels of the character that span from fragile to heroic and back again. Seemingly without effort, he gives the character a sense of physicality, intelligence and charm without the arrogant brilliance.
The strongest aspect of the movie has to go to the relationship between Holmes and Watson. While he is far more subdued than Downey, Jude Law's portrayal of Watson is as Holmes's equal and friend and not the lackey that we have seen him as in previous incarnations. Their relationship is the emotional core of the movie that is both warming and comical.
While the movie is fun and exciting, it is not without fault. While it may be due to the incredible performance of Downey, Rachel McAdams simply does not shine in her role of Irene Adler. We never get the sense she is as clever as Holmes or what the purpose of her role is other than to provide a love interest for Holmes. Her time with Holmes just makes you wish that there were more scenes of Downey and Law together. Also, while Strong does a commendable job as Blackwood, his character is rather underdeveloped. Blackwood just doesn't seem menacing or give us a real reason to fear him or his motivations throughout the film.
Without question, Sherlock Holmes will have many other adventures as this franchise continues. Ritchie's interpretation of the characters is both refreshing and exhilarating. While it does have its flaws, I hope that these are ironed out in the inevitable sequel that will hopefully keep the thrilling pace and fun of this first outing.