April 2010

201004_br_holmesRitchie the Ringmaster Dazzles with a Unique Look at the World's Most Famous Detective

Warner Home Video 3000029704
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
Picture Quality
Sound Quality

For 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, director Guy Ritchie serves as ringmaster, corralling as much action as possible into the center ring. But despite Ritchie’s efforts to lift Watson (Jude Law) to the level of Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.), Downey turns in such a captivating performance that the action inevitably revolves around him. That said, Ritchie has given their relationship greater balance, making Sherlock Holmes a buddy movie in which Holmes and Watson show glimpses of Butch and Sundance. Purists may balk, but for my buck Ritchie offers an interesting interpretation that serves up a full 128 minutes of quality action-adventure entertainment.

Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes looks even better on Blu-ray than it did in the theater, and it’s a perfect transfer for boasting about what your system can do. The sets drip with detail, and the Blu-ray faithfully reproduces every speck of dirt from the streets of late 19th-century London. The palette is bluish-brown, similar to that of Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but the colors were clearly the director’s intent. The soundtrack is lively, and it completely encircles the viewer. The frequency range is also excellent, from the highest piccolo to the lowest thud. This mix will keep your whole speaker system, not to mention your ears, busy.

The extras are a bit unusual. At first there seems to be only one, called “Maximum Movie Mode,” which actually comprises many elements. Ritchie, again as ringmaster, presides over the effects, offering comments and ushering in various frames within the screen that range from talking-head comments to backstage filming sequences. He invites you back to the movie once in a while, but you’ll still see terraced PIPs of storyboard sketches. At several points you’re asked to press Enter to see still-frame galleries or featurettes about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories or the filming process. At other times a timeline appears at the bottom of the screen, listing dates of events in Doyle’s life. There’s a ton of well organized information here, but don’t dig in until you’ve seen the film. You can also access the featurettes later on without having to experience the entire three-ring show.

The ending of Sherlock Holmes shamelessly sets up a sequel, and I can’t wait. If you haven’t seen this film yet, make sure you do. The Blu-ray version makes a good movie that much better.

Be sure to watch for: Chapter 13, the shipyard chase scene. It’s an intricate mix of live action, CGI, and mattes, and it’s one of the best action-adventure set pieces around. All of the ship’s spars, rigging ropes, and chains stand out with amazing clarity, and the superb soundtrack enhances the action on the screen. Holmes’s take: “Watson, what have you done?”

. . . Rad Bennett