Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner) is the energized sequel to Guy Ritchie’s reincarnation of the world’s greatest detective as a smart-aleck action movie hero played with cheeky playfulness by Robert Downey Jr.
There’s a strange leveling that home video provides by putting Guy Ritchie’s big-budget, action-crammed, ADD-plagued Sherlock Holmes features next to the updated BBC TV “Sherlock” features, produced with smaller budgets and smarter scripts (reviewed on Videodrone here). They couldn’t be more different, and yet they offer two different approaches to the literary detective who seems to get a definitive revival every generation or so. For fans of the original fiction, the Benedict Cumberbatch Holmes offers an intelligent update of Doyle’s stories. And for the Hollywood culture of bigger, faster, more, there is this revision with Holmes as a rather whimsical prankster.
In this very busy story, Holmes and his brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) hijack the honeymoon of Watson (Jude Law) and his bride (Kelly Reilly) to save them from Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), and then head to the continent with a gypsy fortune teller (Noomi Rapace) targeted by Moriarty’s assassins to take on the master criminal’s latest diabolical scheme. Action ramping, silly costumes, and general mayhem ensues.
Continue reading at Videodrone
In Contagion (Warner), Steven Soderbergh uses his camera lens as a kind of microscope to study the effects of a fictional pandemic. It’s as much social anthropology as medical thriller, with familiar faces playing out the roles of victims, medical professionals and bystanders, and Soderbergh holding it all at arm’s length, clinical and removed as he observes with a mix of technical detail and swift efficiency. He covers a lot of objective information and subjective experience in 106 minutes.
While Soderbergh favors clinical detachment to human engagement, he has the good sense to offer Matt Damon as our everyman point-of-view, a husband and father who loses his wife and one of his children in the first bloom of the contagion and becomes what would in other circumstances appear zealously overprotective of his surviving daughter.
The rest of the fine cast — notably Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, even Jude Law’s maverick blogger (with questionable motives) — are more defined by their purposefulness and focus. Damon is as close as we get to the human equation and that gives the film a queasy atmosphere so removed from the melodrama and spectacle of the traditional disaster movie. We don’t feel like we “know” these characters and as a result we are more focused on the big picture — the isolation of the virus, the search for a cure / vaccine, the survival of society — than the survival of individuals.
Continue reading on Videodrone