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Once again time is short, so I've decided to dispense with a lengthy review of the film. Instead this review will concentrate more on the technical aspects of the Blu-ray release, although I have provided some brief thoughts about the feature.

 Sherlock Holmes

Feature


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, gets an update in this reworking by oft-maligned writer/director Guy Ritchie. When Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) foil a ritualistic sacrifice by the nefarious Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) they uncover a series of events that threaten to bring down the British government. Holmes will need to use all of his considerable skill and cunning if he is to solve the mystery before time runs out, but he is frustrated at every turn by agents of evil. Matters are further complicated by the return of his old flame, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who is in the employ of some fellow called Moriarty...

I'll be completely upfront and admit that I wasn't expecting a lot from the man who brought us such films as Swept Away and Revolver, but Sherlock Holmes has forced me to re-evaluate my assessment of Guy Ritchie. I'll admit to having a strange soft spot for his début Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels—if only because it was among the very first DVDs I rented back when Blockbuster only had about a dozen to choose from—but I was less impressed with Snatch, the only memorable effect of which seems to be the popularisation of the word 'pikey'. The less said about his work since then the better, with even the inexplicably successful RocknRolla leaving me stone cold.

 Sherlock Holmes
In light of the above you can imagine my surprise when I found his approach to this reworking of the world's greatest detective to be very enjoyable. The film moves along at a brisk pace, there's great interplay between the leads, some neat comic touches, plenty of action, and some nicely staged set-pieces to enjoy. Of course it helps that Ritchie has such a great cast to work with, and actors such as Downey Jr. and Law are a step up from your Stathams, Jones and, well, Madonnas. In fact the chemistry between the male leads is one of the most enjoyable things about the production, and I can see why some have labelled it a ‘homoerotic bromance’. That certainly isn’t a negative though—in fact much of the comedy comes from the scenes where the underlying sexual tension between the pair is almost palpable. Of course I’m fairly sure that Guy Ritchie couldn’t give a toss what I think of his films, but nevertheless I feel it’s only fair to give credit where credit is due. Sherlock Holmes isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s an entertaining romp and about a thousand times more entertaining than Ridley Scott’s ghastly take on Robin Hood.

Video


Contrary to the packaging, which lists the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the film is actually framed at 1.78:1 (1080/24p VC-1). As you'd expect from such a recent release the transfer is very good, with a strong colour palette that is intentionally desaturated to lend the picture a 'cooler' appearance. Exterior daytime shots are especially drab and dreary and should be reassuringly familiar to those who have to endure the British weather on a regular basis! Detail is similarly impressive, particularly close-ups, although the film's visual style prohibits it from attaining the sort of razor-sharp clarity associated with some releases. The image is coated with a fine layer of grain throughout, which only serves to add to the gritty 'realism' of the Victorian setting, and contrast appears to have been intentionally manipulated to provide some blown out whites. The end result of this is that black levels aren't quite as inky as one might expect, but this improves as the film progresses. The image is also very clean; if there were any film artefacts I didn't spot them and I couldn't see any particularly obvious digital artefacts either. To put it simply, Sherlock Holmes' visuals shouldn't disappoint.

 Sherlock Holmes

Audio


Cementing Warner's relatively new commitment to DTS-HD Master Audio, Sherlock Holmes arrives with a robust 5.1 lossless track. Right from the opening scenes the mix features plenty of atmosphere, with horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping over the cobbled streets of Victorian London. This continues throughout, with crowd noise, rainstorms, church bells and more. There are also some inventive directional effects, especially during the raucous bare-knuckle boxing match and the fight with the gigantic Frenchman at the shipyard, in which every element works harmoniously to provide a thoroughly enjoyable aural experience. Dialogue is well-rendered and effectively steered around the soundstage when the occasion calls for it (the slaughter house scene springs to mind), while bass is also punchy without overwhelming the rest of the mix, so you should be relatively safe from irate neighbours. As usual, Hans Zimmer’s score is a highlight, blending the traditional violin sounds one usually associates with Holmes with banjos and out of tune piano. Yes I said out of tune, and it works to great effect. As with the video before it, Sherlock Holmes’ audio is very capable and should please the film’s devotees.

Extras


Maximum Movie Mode (02:11:32 HD): As with some of Warner's other high-profile titles ( Watchmen, Terminator Salvation), Sherlock Holmes includes the option to watch the film with this BonusView feature engaged. When activated, director Guy Ritchie occasionally walks on-screen to talk about specific scenes, often pausing the playback to explore topics in greater detail or provide technical background. Also included are interviews, storyboard comparisons, featurettes and still galleries. As with the main feature, I was surprised by just how entertained I was when watching this track. In fact, I think it's the best implementation of the feature I've seen to date.

 Sherlock Holmes
Focus Points (31:17 HD): Although an additional thirty minutes of bonus material sounds good, the fact that these clips can also be found during the Maximum Movie Mode takes the shine off of things. I guess it's easier to view them separately (or via the play all function), but claiming them as separate features is a bit of a swizz. Anyway, the Focus Points are: Drawbridges & Doilies: Designing a Late Victorian London; Not a Deerstalker Cap in Sight; Ba-ritsu: A Tutorial; Elementary English: Perfecting Sherlock’s Accent; The One that Got Away; Powers of Observation & Deduction; The Sherlockians; and FuturePast.

Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented (14:06 HD): This relatively short featurette provides an overview of how director Guy Ritchie and star Robert Downey Jr. went about the task of reinventing the world’s greatest detective. Although essentially a fluffy EPK piece, there are some interesting facts to learn, such as the filmmakers’ conscious decision to move away from the previous theatrical incarnations of the character and instead portray him as more of an adventurer. The cast and crew are all very complimentary about their director as well.

DVD Copy: A handy DVD copy of the main feature is also included, which is ideal for watching in a second room if it lacks a Blu-ray player (or maybe even loaning to friends if you're less paranoid about disc safety than me).

Digital Copy: If you like to watch your films on the move, this is for you.

 Sherlock Holmes

Overall


Film snobbery and irrational dislike of Guy Ritchie aside, I have to admit to enjoying Sherlock Holmes a lot more than I expected. Maybe it's because I don't have any real attachment to the literary character, but I didn't have a problem with Holmes' reinvention as a Victorian action hero. Downey Jr. is always a delight and I really enjoyed the interplay between him and Jude Law. Of course a hero is only as good as the villain he must overcome, and Mark Strong delivers his usual capable performance. Technically the Blu-ray does just about everything you could reasonably expect from such a recent feature film, offering up an extremely solid audio-visual presentation and some informative bonus material. This one comes as a surprising recommendation.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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