Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray review

Dave takes a trip to Baker Street, as he checks out the arrival of Sherlock Holmes on Blu-ray...

Guy Ritchie’s re-imagination of Sherlock Holmes takes away the occasionally stuffy, pompous portrayal of a Victorian detective and his associate and replaces it with a character with the style of Bond and the spirit of Indiana Jones. He’s not posh, yet he’s not common. He’s a practical man with a burning intelligence. He’s the guy we’d all probably love to be, deep down.

Robert Downey, Jr plays the titular character, ably assisted by Jude Law’s Dr. Watson as they work together to prevent the dark arts wreaking havoc on the Victorian London. Rachel McAdams plays the only person to beat Holmes, Irene Adler, and Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood helps bolster a cast which is, quite frankly, dynamite.

It’s a simple enough story given impressive depth by the writers and brought well and truly to life by a man more famous for his British gangster films than period dramas. With his style of direction, Ritchie brings a great degree of freshness and originality to proceedings. Holmes aficionados may complain about this updated take on the classic character, but they’re just full of sour grapes if they can’t appreciate a script that is full of wit, intelligence, adventure and, most importantly, fun.

From the very first minutes to the ominous ending, you’re in for a treat of a film that feels far shorter than its two hours running time.

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Downey Jr’s Holmes is a complex character who has a need for analysis that drives him to distraction. He sees nothing wrong with firing guns, abusing his body and drugging Watson’s faithful dog in the name of investigative science. Tempered by the down-to-earth Watson, Holmes investigates cases that interest him, whilst ignoring the rest of the world around him. It makes him the type of guy that would genuinely leave you awestruck, but would ultimately frustrate, if he were your friend.  

A number of fight sequences highlight Holmes’ eye for detail as the action pauses whilst he explains how he will execute the right number of moves to subdue his opponent. This technique is further developed in his ability to spot what may have otherwise been missed, pulling together strands to form a bigger picture. 

When he’s not investigating, he’s partaking in some brutal (though mostly bloodless) fight scenes and some rather spectacular, if improbable, stunts.

Jude Law is equally impressive, bringing depth and emotion to his portrayal of Watson. Balancing his relationship with his fiancée (of whom Holmes does not approve) with his platonic love for his best friend, Watson is the balancing force for the otherwise unstoppable Holmes. Without him, Holmes would not be able to function in the real world and Watson would, in turn, be alone. It’s an almost symbiotic relationship that borders, at times, on a proper bromance.

The story may not be original. A secret society is trying to stop Lord Blackwood from unleashing evil forces, but power corrupts and, as the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely and some would like to see Blackwood succeed. 

There’s treachery, love, loss, backroom deals and politicians, all of which helps create a story that doesn’t grow stale. 

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Some of the secondary characters do come across as clichéd interpretations, with little in the way of depth, but that’s not important in the overall execution of the story. Each of the supporting characters serves their purpose to progress the telling of the story.


The Blu-ray edition of the film contains a DVD and digital copy.  The DVD has no special features, whilst the digital copy features the ubiquitous DRM to stop you sending it to all your friends. Having said that, the DVD and digital copy are both excellent quality.

It’s great that studios are providing, for little additional cost, the ability to view the film in a variety of ways, though the DRM does mean those with certain portable players will have difficulty in watching the film.

The Blu-ray disc has exceptional picture quality and immersive sound, as you would expect from a modern blockbuster. The bitrate is around the 20Mbps mark, often exceeds 30Mbps, and the picture is sharp, clear and doesn’t seem to suffer from any artefacting or grain (and, trust me, I got up close to the TV at some points.) 

There are many night scenes that look exceptional, and the action sequences, particularly explosions, rock the subwoofer, thanks to a well executed DTS-HD sountrack, and look crystal clear.

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As for extras, we’re treated to a ‘Sherlock Holmes Reinvented’ featurette that runs for fourteen minutes. Through interviews with cast and crew, it looks at how the character was modernised and how Guy Ritchie was the man for the job. They talk about the differences between the original material and Guy Ritchie’s interpretation, though it feels far too short and a bit fawning.

There are thirty-one minutes of ‘Focal Points’, looking at the various aspects of the film. These can be played as part of the feature (in Maximum Movie Mode) or as a separate extra. Played as part of the feature, they act as part of a picture-in-picture package that has Guy Ritchie walking in and talking about the film. It’s like a visual commentary, using footage from the set, designs, photographs and artwork. Ritchie is an interesting speaker, compelling to listen to and the moments where he pauses the action to explain technical detail (which could have been annoying) are interesting and informative.

So, does the film fail? Absolutely not. It’s a rollicking romp from start to finish, building up with set pieces that just work, no matter how ridiculous. Sure, historians and scientists might cringe at some of the events that take place, but it’s a fictional character in a fictional world. 

The extras are well worth watching too, even though you might feel short-changed if you look at the back of the box and see ‘only’ a Maximum Movie Mode and the Reinvented featurette. The Maximum Movie Mode offers far greater insight into filmmaking and this reimagining than many commentaries and extras that I’ve listened to or seen previously.

You should definitely purchase this disc. It’s elementary, dear Watson. Oh, come on. They didn’t say that in the film and I had to get it in somewhere!


4 stars

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Sherlock Holmes is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.


1 out of 5