★ ★ ★ ★
The redemption of Anthony Peckham came swift and mercilessly. A few weeks ago I derided the screenwriter for his mind numbingly dull portrayal of Nelson Mandela. While the screenplay for Sherlock Holmes was a collaborative effort, it has certainly ameliorated my opinion of the man. Guy Ritchie has finally established himself as one of the premier contemporary directors. His films never lack in style, but for once that style is matched by its substance.
Though purists have derided the film from departing from the original stories, this departure was well worthwhile. Robert Downey Junior's Holmes does not resemble the stolid Victorian Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle. I've never quite been able to drag myself through his stories, yet I was on the edge of my seat for the entire film. Downey and Jude Law made one of the best on screen partnerships in recent memory. Like Holmes and Watson, Downey and Law were mutually complementary. Even in the darkest moments, neither let the other take himself too seriously.
This was by far the best depiction of 19th Century London yet created. Rather than the putrid industrial wasteland that is typically portrayed, Richie's London was a somewhat hopeful place. The rapid development of the city is embodied in the nascent Westminster Bridge, which made for a clever backdrop. As the film progresses, we can feel the gradual triumph of science and industry over the forces of superstition and titular rule. In contrast to most films in this period, progress was not greeted with lamentations.
The rebirth of Sherlock Holmes is even more stunning than that of Batman. At best, I imagined this would have been comparable to the original Indiana Jones movies. The result far exceeded my expectations. The blend of action, comedy, and intrigue made this the most enjoyable movie of the year. I'd go so far as to say that it rivals The Dark Knight as the most enjoyable film experience of the decade.