Sleuth - Conundrum
| Sleuth is a bit of a conundrum. In some ways, it is intriguing and its impossible to take your eyes off of. In other ways, it is frustrating and doesn't make sense. Michael Cain and Jude Law rip through this movie masterfully and Kenneth Branagh shows that he remains one of the most fascinating screen directors despite a long absence from behind the camera. However, it's the story and script itself that sink this and keep it from reaching the kind of heights a dream project like this usually attains.
Sleuth's plot is ridiculous and impossible to sum up. Suffice it to say that it is a battle of wills between the two leads. Each of them is up to the task and the exude an amazing chemistry together that the film takes to its somewhat logical conclusion near the end with only some success. Each of them is a joy to watch and you can tell they are enjoying themselves.
Branagh does a great job with his adaptation of this theatre piece for the cinemas. Not only does he fill the screen with incredible scenery, he finds a way to make it all fascinating to watch. He is helped by having such pleasing to look at and talented subjects. Still, it's hard to set a piece like this on the screen. This kind of talky, business-less play works on the stage but often seem calculated in the intimate light of the film camera. Branagh does the best anyone could dealing with this hurdle and he creates something that flows and captivates.
However, the story is where things fall apart. The film starts out with an over the top ridiculous premise. Then it jumps to an even less believable middle. Then the ending just doesn't flow. Sure the banter and the verbal swordplay are amazing to watch and Branagh films it all like a sporting event. But it's the substance that is futile. You never once believe either of them mean it. Not because of the performances, which are spot on, but because no one would ever mean what these two try to pull off.
Sit and watch it and ask yourself could you ever imagine anyone behaving remotely like these two characters do? Unfortunately, no. Movies don't have to be realistic, they just have to make you believe it. Sleuth doesn't make it.