4K UHD Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Sporting his remarkably convincing English accent for the first time since his Oscar nominated role in Chaplin, Robert Downey, Jr. takes on the lead role in director Guy Ritchie’s (Snatch) Sherlock Holmes. Equal parts buddy film and adventure, the detective is joined by his partner-in-crime-solving, Dr. John H. Watson (Jude Law), as they help Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) unravel a dastardly plot that threatens to destroy England.

As the film begins, Watson is preparing to move out of 221b Baker Street, with plans to propose to pretty and proper Mary (Kelly Reilly) and leave the detective business behind. Holmes, both bored and terribly jealous at the thought of this new situation, attempts to ruin Watson’s engagement and bring him back into the fold. Besides, he needs him; it seems an old case has suddenly reopened.

Several months earlier, Watson and Holmes put away Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), an aristocrat and former member of Parliament, turned black magic-wielding occult leader who murdered five people. Watson had personally supervised Blackwood’s hanging, but when he mysteriously arises from the dead, everyone from the police to a secret cabal wants to know how he did it. More ominously, Blackwood and his followers have a plan to achieve world domination through drinking potions and other magic.

During his investigation, Holmes crosses paths with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), an American beauty who broke his heart years before. Irene, the duplicitous sort, is secretly working for a shadowy boss with a penchant for fancy weaponry. Needless to say, Holmes has his hands full. He must deal with Irene, and whatever her ties are to the case, as well as the imminent break-up of his partnership with Watson, who still plans to move out of Baker Street and marry.

Guy Ritchie has created a true action adventure that hits the ground running. While it does occasionally border on the absurd, and one could argue that the plot wanders all over the place—it manages to touch on chemistry, pentagrams and the earliest forms of electricity—the fact that all of that just provides a vehicle for the action and the superb character interactions, somehow makes most of it work.

Downey has long been considered one of America’s finest working actors and his performance as Holmes only validates that opinion. Downey’s Holmes isn’t the stately, serious, impenetrable fellow immortalized by Basil Rathbone and others. Instead, he’s vulnerable, perhaps bordering on manic depressive. There’s a devious brilliance behind his eyes that convinces us he can see things others don’t notice and put together the pieces faster than anyone else.

Jude Law works well as Dr. Watson. For the first time, we have a Watson that’s more a partner than a sidekick. While certainly more low key than Downey, Law has more than enough charisma to hold his own. Law also acquits himself well in his many fight scenes, which does away with the exasperated personality that Watson had been given in earlier film portrayals. Most importantly, Law and Downey play off each other extremely well, and it’s easy to understand why the two are the best of friends.

If there is a weak link in the cast, it would be Rachel McAdams. Unfortunately, she is simply overshadowed by Downey. Though she’s a talented actress, I just don’t by her as the villain here. I don’t know if she was intimidated or not, but she just seems to come up a bit short.

As anyone who has seen Sherlock Holmes knows, the film set things up perfectly for a sequel, and given the manifold adventures of Holmes and Watson that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, it’s hard to imagine two heroes better suited to a modern franchise.

Sherlock Holmes appears in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, offering a solid repression of the material. Sharpness is solid throughout. Clarity and definition is pleasing, I failed to notice issues with softness. Source flaws aren’t apparent. Holmes’ decidedly chilly palette comes across with appropriate impact. Blacks are dark and dense, while shadows are well rendered. HDR made contrast and whites more dynamic.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mix here is aggressive. Dialogue is pristine throughout, atmospherics are rich and involving, and effects whiz and pop in surround channels with roaring, panoramic finesse. During some of the film’s fighting sequences, though, things become a bit muddled: Between overloud, music, thick effects and the rest of it, some dialogue gets lost in the shuffle. But this only occurs a handful of times; the rest of the time, this mix is punchy and involving.

English, Latin, Spanish, Castilian, French, German, Dutch, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish and Thai subtitles are included.

While no extras are included on the 4K disc, the Blu-ray included an assortment of things:

  • Maximum Movie Mode (HD, 132 min) Director Guy Ritchie puts himself between two oversized monitors in this Picture-in-Picture marvel, one of which presents the film itself as the other cues up concept art, behind-the-scenes footage, and other bonus content. When Ritchie wraps up his thoughts of a scene though, the MMM doesn’t go silent, but instead offers more on-screen concept art, timelines, and thirty-plus minutes of additional production featurettes. Moreover, Ritchie can pause the film at any point, discuss the particulars of a special effect sequence or action scene, and continue on, at his leisure.
  • Focus Points (HD, 31 min) Those who don’t want to sit through the entire Maximum Movie Mode to find every production featurette can also access each individual short and shave an hour-and-a-half off their supplemental trek. “Drawbridges and Dollies” examines Ritchie’s efforts to recreate Victorian London without sacrificing his personal style, “Not a Deerstalker Cap in Sight” takes a quick look at the film’s costumes, “Ba-Ritsu” dissects Holmes’ martial arts techniques, “Elementary English” finds Downey learning to master Holmes’ accent, “The One That Got Away” touches on the feminine elements of the story, “Powers of Observation & Deduction” reveals a number of Holmsian easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film, “The Sherlockians” gives a group of experts the opportunity to discuss Doyle’s famed character, and “Future Past” offers a behind-the-scenes overview of how the production team transformed London into a character.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented (HD, 14 min) This EPK allows the filmmakers, cast, and key members of the crew to candidly chat about Doyle’s original characters, Ritchie’s take on Holmes and his Victorian brethren, the story’s respect of its source material, and the tone of the latest reimagining of Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Sherlock Holmes 4K

Movie title: Sherlock Holmes

Country: USA

Duration: 128 min

Director(s): Guy Ritchie

Actor(s): Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Robert Maillet

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, Crime, Period, Mystery

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