Friday, March 14, 2008


Sleuth is Kenneth Branagh's re-make, re-imagination, re-invention of the 1972 film with the same name which, in turn, was based on Anthony Shaffer's stage play. In the original, Laurence Olivier played the high-born snob Andrew Wyke and Michael Caine was the working class hairdresser Milo Tindle. This time around, Caine is Andrew and Jude Law is Milo. The general storyline remains the same, as does the cat-and-mouse dynamic between the leads, but the screenplay has been rewritten. The result is a script with more delicious lines and a shorter running length. What's lost in translation, however, is any reason to like or sympathize with either of the principals. In the film, both’re arrogant assholes, and it's not really tough to enjoy spending 90 minutes in the company of two such jerks.

Sleuth is all about revenge: Andrew's revenge against Milo for stealing his wife and Milo's need to strike back after Andrew humiliates him. The first two acts of the movie are, as explicitly stated, like sets in a tennis match. The third act acts like icing on the cake.

Sleuth can be enjoyed for its plot convolutions. For those who are aware of all the twists and turns, this is a chance to admire the performances, savor the script, and appreciate how much visual variety can add to the proceedings.

To keep things lively, the director uses all kinds of odd camera angles and mixes traditional shots with images gleaned from "security footage." Andrew's mansion is an amazing slice of Oz - a playroom for the rich and famous that's so cold and sterile that it's unfathomable how anyone but a complete narcissist could call it "home”.

If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Andrew and Milo are dining raw. It's an interesting movie - a film that works more successfully as a study of technique and writing than as a motion picture.

Trivia: In the casting, there are just three (3) names!

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