Directed by: John Hillcoat
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi McPhee, Charlize Theron
Despite capturing the essence of author Cormac McCarthy’s soul-crushingly bleak setting almost perfectly, such attention to detail has also proven to be The Road‘s weakest suit. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, which I’m not, it’s safe to say that those unfamiliar with the source material will be turned off by how relentlessly depressing the film is from start to finish. Even those moments dedicated to potentially being uplifting are almost immediately disregarded when a favorable flashback or dream sequence is cut dreadfully short, allowing Mortensen’s character to momentarily wallow in an ocean of grief even bigger than the one he’s become accustomed to.
What The Road ends up offering in this regard though is essentially the author’s seal of approval in staying painstakingly true to the source material. Unfortunately, the narrative also ends up suffering because of this, and anything outside of the importance of togetherness in trying times becomes overshadowed by the film’s somewhat repetitive structure that goes something like this: walk, hide from evildoers, find food, chat with one another, walk, repeat. Needless to say, The Road isn’t necessarily the most complex, and some will undoubtedly find it boring, but the strength of Mortensen’s performance alone is enough to carry the film through to its end.
While the mercilessly downcast and often simple-minded narrative may both puzzle and displease viewers, it’s hard not to acknowledge Hillcoat’s dedication in capturing the look and feel of McCarthy’s novel to the fullest. With terrific performances from Mortensen and Theron to partially compensate for its flaws, The Road ends up coming off as an ambitious but lackluster entry into 2009’s already stellar lineup. Like most adaptations though, if you’re a fan of the source material, giving this one a look would probably be in your best interest providing you can find a theater it’s actually playing in.
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
Once again, Guy Ritchie has employed his trademark style to either wow viewers or make them wonder why he still has a hand in anything. While I tend to fall within the latter category as of late, this style works to both the film’s advantage and sometimes severe disadvantage. For starters, taking an otherwise straightforward classic in the same vein as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved novels and transforming it into a gritty, modernistic action-packed crime caper is quite the achievement. The action sequences are perhaps the film’s strongest suit as a matter of fact, next to the countless witty exchanges between Holmes and fellow cohort Watson, even if the lightning-fast speed at which these exchanges occur can often provide for some minor confusion amongst viewers.
As for the narrative itself, it’s relatively simple-minded and, above all, uninteresting outside of periodic displays of Holmes’ expertise as a detective. It’s also surprising that despite the speed at which just about everyone speaks, the film tends to drag laboriously on towards its mildly predictable conclusion. The simply dynamite performances however compensate for such a flaw, especially that of Downey and Law, providing for an ample amount of comic relief and intrigue in between bouts of Ritchie’s signature slow-motion action sequences. Thankfully, the supporting cast compliments the commendable efforts of the two central characters quite well, thus leaving little to no room for error by way of talent.
To conclude, Sherlock Holmes isn’t by any means groundbreaking. Yes, Ritchie has successfully turned a beloved classic into an appealing avant-garde spectacle, but unfortunately, the narrative is at points unappealing and the film as a whole becomes a chore to sit through. Thanks to the terrific efforts of the cast however, Holmes manages to come off as a respectable piece of filmmaking. Best of ’09 material? Absolutely not, but if you’re looking for a relatively fun time at the theater, look no further.