Sunday, 8 August 2010

Sherlock

Normally, one does not need almost superhuman capacity for observation to realise that taking a set of classic books involving a great literary character and transposing it to 2010 for a three-part television series tends to be a bad idea.
However, on learning that Mark Gatiss and current Doctor Who helmsman Steven Moffat are the brains behind the programme, one can deduct that it might not be the desecration one would expect. In fact, their re-imagining of Sherlock is about as classy as television gets.
Moving the action from Victorian London to 21st Century London appears to have no detrimental effect to the story or the characters. Although modern technology has a role, it is a small one, taking nothing away from simple detecting, and the show somehow feels like a Sherlock Holmes mystery.
Benedict Cumberbatch (isn’t that just the Best Name Ever?!) is the charismatic and enigmatic Sherlock Holmes, the man with the legendary powers of observation and deduction; while Martin Freeman shows his slightly more serious side as Doctor John Watson. This pairing makes for a delightful complement and contrast, with Cumberbatch as a classically elegant and refined Holmes, and Freeman as the weary yet willing former army doctor.
They are introduced by a mutual friend, who knows that Watson is looking for a flat, and Holmes is looking for a flatmate. After their first meeting in a morgue where Watson finds Holmes whipping a corpse, they combine to form the perfect Holmes-Watson duo.
Their first collaboration in “A Study in Pink” focuses on a number of apparent suicides, to which Sherlock is summoned by DI Lestrade (Rupert Graves) to cast his unique eyes over, and he soon realises they are anything but suicides. “The Blind Banker” is the mystery of the murders of two people just returned from a trip to China, from where one of them has unintentionally stolen a treasure that some would kill to own.
“The Great Game” is the complex finale to this frustratingly short first series, although mercifully it is left wide open for a second.
Despite the dark themes running through the episodes, there is plenty of light and dark humour to counter this; from the banter and domestic arguments between Holmes and Watson, to the quirks of Holmes and Watson’s reactions to them. Never before and never again will a severed head in a fridge be laugh-out-loud material.
The whole thing is an intelligently written, witty, entertaining, beautifully shot and exquisitely acted piece of television. Sherlock is a rare thing: a modern adaptation of a classic that actually works.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Inception

After watching Inception, I must say I'm rather looking forward to dreaming tonight, although sadly my dreams tend not to involve Leonardo DiCaprio.
He stars as Cobb, a thief living in a time when it is possible to connect to another person's dreams. Cobb is enlisted by millionaire businessman Saito (Ken Watanbe) to lead a team into the mind of Robert Fischer (a perfectly sensitive Cillian Murphy) through his dreams, and plant the idea in his head to disband his dying father's company to rid Saito of any competition. However they must do this without Fischer knowing it is a dream, and making him think that it is his idea to break up the company. This concept is Inception.
Cobb convinces architect student Ariadne (Ellen Page) to design the locations of the dream, while Arthur manages the technology of connecting to dreams, Yusuf handles the driving, and Eames the strategy. It involves creating a dream within a dream within a dream, and from here it gets complicated.
Ariadne discovers another little problem: Cobb's dead wife, Mal, who appears to him in his dreams and urges him to join her, as he promised he would. When she was alive, while they were dreaming, Cobb had given her the idea of a reality in a dream, which she then set out to pursue, killing herself in the process and alienating Cobb from their young children.
If Cobb can make Fischer disband the company, Saito will ensure that Cobb is reunited with his children, but will Mal make things even more difficult for Cobb?
Inception is a conglomeration of all that a great movie should be: a unique plot, fine storytelling, stunning cinematography, all backed up with collectively good acting performances. Here, we are spoiled for choice. The effectively understated DiCaprio, Page and Murphy are given stellar support by Watanbe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy and Marion Cotillard.
Director Christopher Nolan has delivered a fiendishly complex, unpredictable, and intelligent film. It baffles the mind and indulges the senses.
The more spectacular of the dream sequences involve Ariadne's vertical manipulation of skyscraper-lined streets, a fist fight in a rolling room, and Cobb and Mal's single-handedly-built dream city; all set to a dramatic yet subtle score by Hans Zimmer, with some help from Édith Piaf.
It is said that an hour in a dream is five minutes when awake. Inception certainly did not feel two and a half hours long; rather it whizzed by as though it was only twelve and a half minutes.