Movie #45: Sleuth

I like movies adapted from plays. Even though the action is typically very static (two actors on a single set), play-films usually offer the promise of superior dialogue. Sleuth was not only one of those films, but also a remake of a movie adaptation of a play, and the new version was written by acclaimed playwright Harold Pinter. All that being said, I was sorely disappointed and downright bored by this film. From the title, I expected more of a battle of wits, with verbal sparring and some surprising twists. Instead, what we’ve got is Michael Caine as an old, wealthy novelist, and Jude Law as the younger lover of Caine’s wife. When he comes to Caine’s house to ask that he grant his wife a divorce so that she and Law can marry, Caine tricks him into simulating a robbery at which point it seems as if Caine intends to kill him and stage it as self-defense. What passes for twists in this movie are that we’re not really sure if either character is serious about killing the other, or just psyching the other man out. The second act takes a bizarre twist when a detective shows up looking for Law’s character, Tindle. The detective is clearly played by Law (in horrible “drag” by the way) and at first I was wondering if it’s just the same actor in two parts (but then it turns out to be Tindle in “disguise”). That’s kind of like when someone lies to you and claims that it was supposed to be a joke. Bald-faced lies are not jokes, and having the same actor play a character disguised as another character is not a clever cinematic trick either. Kenneth Branagh is one of my favourite actors and he’s not a bad director, generally, but as the director of this movie, I feel like he’s just being stagey for its own sake. For all the self-referential theatricality of this movie, it seems incredibly pointless and a total letdown. (2.5 out of 5)

5 more to go!


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