Sleuth (2007)

"Weak"

Sleuth (2007) Review


Postmodern, sadomasochist, Darth Vader furniture and artwork adorn the house and main setting of Kenneth Branagh's update of Sleuth like the aftermath of a smart bomb. Yet, author Andrew Wyke (Michael Caine) walks around it as if all its missing is the crocheted picture of "Home Sweet Home" over the fireplace. His wife's wardrobe and his self-immortalizing library of books are revealed like secret passages that hide mangled corpses and the man seems to drink expensive, straight vodka exclusively. By all means, Wyke could buy and sell a good portion of the English back country that he inhabits; the man takes an elevator to his bedroom for Chrissakes.

When an honest-to-goodness scallywag named Milo Tindle (Jude Law), an Italian hairdresser with designs on acting, comes to Wyke's estate announcing his plans to marry Wyke's estranged wife, the author seems pleased to have an opponent than enraged by the open deceit. And that in a nutshell is how this cat-and-mouse whirligig operates: two men more excited about the idea of a nemesis than their money or their beautiful mistress respectively.

Adapted from Anthony Shaffer's play by prickly dramatist Harold Pinter, Branagh mines the dialogue and the setup for every theatrical and homosexual intimation that could possibly be revealed in its subtext. It's the blatant homoerotic scenes near the tail-end that sends this deviously cold concept off the rails into lunacy. It's never made clear if these scenes of ludicrous flamboyancy are just another set of thrust-and-parries between the characters or if their intentions are true, and this artifice fuels the film's lively intensity. The movie ultimately veers from deeply involved to condescendingly absurd.

When Joseph L. Mankiewicz originally made the film with Caine as the wild provocateur and Laurence Olivier as the vindictive author, the game's pulse was in the warlike tactics of both parties. Branagh tries to fracture not only the psychology of his opponents but the very ground they walk on through his Burton-without-the-humor set design. His scenery instantaneously becomes just as interesting, if not more interesting, than the spoken lacerations both men dole out. The actors, both consummate but Caine immortally so, try to stir life into Haris Zambarloukos' camerawork, but the look comes off as unsure; you'd never believe this was the same man who accentuated space and color so vividly in Enduring Love.

The theatricality of the production effectively diffuses much of its tension. It's preposterous to believe the film's central twist involving Wyke being investigated by a lousy cop with a thick accent. The thought of trying such a scene on camera is ambitious if not fatally amateurish but also points to a glaring fact: Mankiewicz is simply a (much) better director than Branagh is.

Bring me the head of Ellen DeGeneres.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: Riff Raff Film Productions, Sony Pictures Classics, Castle Rock Entertainment, Timnick Films, Mandate Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Simon Halfon, , Simon Moseley, Marion Pilowsky,

Starring: as Milo Tindle, as Andrew Wyke, as Man on T.V., Carmel O'Sullivan as Maggie, as Other Man on T.V.

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.