|Genre(s): Drama / Mystery / Thriller|
|Sony Pictures Classics || R - 89 minutes - $26.96 || March 11, 2008|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-03-03|
Writer(s): Harold Pinter (screenplay); Anthony Shaffer (play)
Cast: Michael Caine, Jude Law
Theatrical Release Date: October, 12, 2007
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** This review (in the special features) contains minor spoilers **
Sleuth is a unique, fascinating and odd movie propelled by sharp dialogue and, especially, two fantastic performances.
The movie centers on Andrew Wyke and Milo Tindle, two men with a propensity for mind games. The two also share another commonality: they’re both seeing the same woman. Milo is having an affair with Andrew’s wife and has come to his home to meet and ask that Andrew would divorce her so they may begin a life with each other. What begins as a simple, all things considered, war of words between the two turns into a tennis match, each trying to one up the other.
Aside from the fact the film has only two actors throughout the 85-minute runtime, it also boasts two excellent performances; one from the legendary Michael Caine, the other with potential legend, Jude Law. This is a very good thing because if you don’t like either of them or they don’t perform up to speed, the entire film could fall flat within the first 10-minutes. Much like their characters, Caine and Law seem to match up very well with each escalating plot turn. They don’t go overboard and keep things consistent, even with an odd turn in the third act.
Just as important as having two capable performers to make a movie such as this work, it is equally important that the writing be spot on, and that it is. Nobel Prize (Literature) winner Harold Pinter adapted the Anthony Shaffer play but putting his own spins on the story and very unique dialogue. Today, people might point to talents like Quentin Tarantino or even Kevin Smith for their writing, but Pinter puts them to shame with lines like:
Andrew: Why have I never heard of you? (Re: Milo being an actor)
Milo: You will before long.
Milo: In Spades.
Andrew: That sounds threatening.
Milo: Does it?
Andrew: Doesn’t it?
There are plenty of other examples, most of which are spread throughout the last third. Combined with how well Caine and Law deliver them and the sharp dialogue itself, it makes Sleuth far more enjoyable than I’d imagine.
That being said, if you don’t get into it within the first 15-minutes, I’m afraid you’ll find it difficult to finish the rest off without being completely bored. This is one of those movies you either like or you don’t, there’s not really much middle ground.
Sleuth was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who brings an interesting style that allows the two actors to shine but also keeps things lively as what you’ve got here is 80+ minutes of two guys talking. He inserts different kinds of lighting and tries to make every scene pop while also giving some symbolism to what they’re talking about. A scene or two get a bit too cute for my taste; one has Andrew turning on an overhead projector, displaying his conversation with Milo on the wall behind them. Cool to look at, for sure, but I don’t appreciate the whole “independent movie” type of shots where filmmakers like to feel hip or something. Not saying this is the case for Branagh, but certainly came across that way for that particular scene.
But, on the whole, Sleuth is worth it for two excellent performances and sharp writing by Harold Pinter. It’s not going to be something everyone will absolutely enjoy but for any fan of film, give it a try.
Director and Actor Commentary – Kenneth Branagh and Michael Caine contribute to the first of two commentaries with casual conversations on making the movie, thoughts on Pinter’s writing and they talk a bit about the 1973 original in which Caine played Milo. There are very few pauses so the two make the most of the time.
Actor/Producer Commentary – Jude Law provides the second commentary but is solo. I don’t know if his producing partner was supposed to be there as well. As solo tracks go, Law is fairly lively and there are some pauses here and there, but he still manages to give more and new information different from the other track. He gives his own thoughts on the story, working with Caine and other little things. It’s a shame he couldn’t have been with Branagh and Caine, but still, it’s a good commentary.
A Game of Cat and Mouse: Behind the Scenes of Sleuth (15:00) – Primarily made up of interviews with the cast and crew, this is a nice ‘making-of’ featurette that gives a little more insight into how they made the movie as well as giving glimpses behind the camera and during the actors’ rehearsal.
Inspector Black: Make-up Secrets Revealed (2:35) – Short featurette that lets the viewer in on the make-up and prosthetics used to transform Jude Law into Inspector Black. This features and interview with the make-up artist and is somewhat interesting but easily could’ve been included with the behind the scenes featurette.
The disc also has previews for other Sony titles and one for Blu-Ray High Definition media.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
Nothing outstanding in either the picture or audio, but both should be just fine for the regular home viewer. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 2.35 OAR, and features a variety of colors inside the Wyke house.
For the audio, you get a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that shows off Patrick Doyle’s amazing score. The film also has English, French and Spanish subtitles for those who like to listen to commentaries but still want to tell what’s going on.
Sleuth isn’t a movie for everyone but if you can appreciate Pinter’s unique dialogue and two fascinating and excellent performances in Michael Caine and Jude Law, you should certainly give this disc a try. Also, if you’re a fan of commentaries (like me), that alone is also worth at the very least, a rental.