Quirky Victorian Machismo Reinvented….

SHERLOCK HOLMES

 sherlock_holmes_ver5

The Dark and Sexy 1890s….

Picture the Victorian age, and most people imagine a British society  with strict morals and closeted virtues, governed by an immovable Queen, who managed an Empire, whose centre was London and radiated out to the four corners of the globe, from South Africa, to Hong Kong, to New Zealand and Jamaica. But by the 1890s that Victorian society was slowly unravelling by the very constraints that were tying it together. Under that epitome of London fortitude, that epicentre of British colonialism, Oscar Wilde was flouting his homosexuality in the mid 1890s and was soon to be tried for his alleged affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, culminating in one of the most famous trials in British legal history. Jack the Ripper was prowling the East End, slitting the throats of Cockney prostitutes and opium dens were rife in the less savoury parts of the City. Under the veil of conservatism, the late Victorians were a quirky bunch, many sects were popping up exploring the occult and challenging the grip of the Church of England, spiritualism was rife, as was the certainty that Victoria’s steel reign was coming to a rapid and abrupt end. England was emerging from the industrial revolution and slowly entering the edges of the modern era. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, lived at a very interesting junction in history and his most famous literary creation from 1890-1905, Sherlock Holmes was a mixture of bound up fanaticism and heroic individuality, a brilliant mind, a borderline addict and an overwhelming eccentric living in an age well before forensics was perfected…

Ritchie Returned…

No other director but the London born, Guy Ritchie (Rock n Rolla, Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) could have brought a 21st century take on the most filmed literary character, and no better actor than Robert Downey Jnr could have pulled off all the perverse complexities as the Victorian super-sleuth, Sherlock. Downey’s performance was reminiscent of his Oscar nominated role in Richard Attenborough biopic, Chaplin.

Hollywood iconic...

Hollywood iconic…

Jude Law is superbly cast as the unassuming but more stable companion Dr Watson whose repartee with Sherlock is bordering on between British Machismo and pervading homo-eroticism. In this version, Holmes and Watson bicker like an old married couple and Holmes sensing separation anxiety at the thought of Watson leaving London to take his bride to go and live in the country, engages Watson as his ever faithful sidekick to destroy the plans of an occult aristocratic. It’s an enabler-rescuer relationship of note and the male bonding that ensues between them penetrating secret societies and separating the mysticism from the science can be read at deeper levels if a viewer wishes. For besides the central Holmes-Watson relation which is central to the film is a fascinating plot which has the duo pitted against the evil and enigmatic Lord Blackwood, another wonderful role by Mark Strong and his ring of henchmen including a French giant.

A Trio of Triumph….

Sherlock Holmes is at home in the 21st century thanks to the adept eye of Guy Ritchie who steers the plot away from glamorous American commercialism and keeps the film, gritty atmospheric, dark and downright British, even to tea in the afternoon, bulldogs and Big Ben. Judging actors and directors by their personal lives is misleading especially with the private affairs of Ritchie, who was going through a divorce with Madonna, Downey who has had an eventful ride to fame, from the early days of Less than Zero to the brilliant Iron Man and Jude Law himself, whose extra-marital affairs have kept him in the spotlight. This trio of talent is brilliant as a team and Guy Ritchie with the extraordinary power of his leading men, create a muscular, engaging and quirky cinematic Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century, leaving a whole generation to discover the very complex and fascinating era that was Victorianism with a twist.

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