It’s probably a commentary on the attention span of today’s movie-going public that a film based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great stories about the world’s most famous detective has to be presented as an action flick. Or maybe it’s just a commentary on Guy Ritchie’s directorial style. Either way, Sherlock Holmes is just that, an action flick. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. In fact, in parts it works well. It’s just that Doyle’s stories (I've read them all at least twice) were more cerebral in nature, more contemplative. But they were also steeped in atmosphere, and in Sherlock Holmes, the movie, Ritchie gets this just right. I’m predisposed to like a movie set in 19th century, dark, foggy, street-lamped, cobble-stoned London, no matter the subject. This predisposition negated my predisposition for disliking films that play fast and loose with the stories I love, so there we were, effectively starting out at neutral.
I would not have thought to cast Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead part. The definitive Holmes for me will always be Jeremy Brett from the wonderful Granada TV series, seen in the States on A&E Network. This is why I am not a casting director. Downey was effective and smart and with the requisite Holmes charisma. Jude Law was more than capable as sidekick Dr. Watson. The movie borders on buddy film at times, but not enough to ruin the depth of the relationship between the two. And in a bigger surprise, I actually found much from the original stories in the movie. Holmes’s methodology is there, as is his skill at disguise, his violin playing, even his pipe. Inspector Lestrade is present, as is eternal nemesis Moriarty, and so is "the woman," played by Rachel McAdams (who is nice to look at but unfortunately seems out of place in old Londontown).
All in all, the film is more loyal to Doyle's work than I had expected. Still, a Sherlock Holmes looking more like Jackie Chan in parts, along with the standard action-film explosions and manufactured suspense (at one point I half-expected the obligatory car chase, but with hansom cabs, of course) stretches the film out much longer than a tighter, stick-to-the-story approach would have. A two-hour and eight-minute action film could have been a grand 90-minute detective mystery. Keep the fog and the cobblestones. Lose the Die Hard angle.
There's an underlying intelligence to the universe (call it God, if you must) and it is our purpose to give this intelligence form and meaning. --G.S. Payne