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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of those cases in which it is impossible to talk about the film in question without making references to the original. The original was a pleasant enough and entertaining enough recreation of the Anthony Shaffer Broadway success. Then, Joseph L Manckiewicz, with the able complicity of Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, went for the gadgetry and deception that made the play a world wide success without adding or detracting much from the original. Now, Jude Law, producer as well as star, approached Nobel laureate Harold Pinter to reinvent the whole thing and reinvented he did. Michael Caine takes now the Laurence Olivier part and Jude Law falls into the Michael Caine part, perfectly. The elements are now cruder: the language, the set, the wardrobe. Thankfully, it's also shorter, much, much shorter. What's missing is the innocence. This time things are taken a bit too seriously. The homosexual element is a novelty but, I must say, not a surprise. Jude Law exudes sex. It's impossible to put him in a confined environment with just one other person and not be sensitive to the sexual possibilities. He provokes without half trying. He plants sexual ideas in your mind and you feel compelled to break rules and go for it. His Lord Alfred Douglas was a triumph because of that. You understood Oscar Wilde's journey of self destruction just because Jude Law was his navigator. Kenneth Brannagh's theatrical touch works beautifully here and the two actors are worth the price of admission and more. So, at the bottom of all this chatter there is a recommendation. If it had been up to me however I wouldn't have gone to Harold Pinter for the revamping of this minor classic but to Alan Ayckbourn, Alan Bennett or even Tom Stoppard, but that's just me.
None of the innocence of the original survive this dark and nasty remake. Harold Pinter's world overtakes Anthony Shaffer's and destroys it. The result is an entertaining, short, showcase for two actors from different generations. Michael Caine who's old enough to have been in the original and Jude Law who's young enough not to have seen it. But, he's clearly seen it and saw it as a major showcase for himself. He was right. The two actors go for it. They fight, they insult and humiliate each other as well as forgive, promise, lie and almost become lovers. Pinter is not a laugh a minute guy, he never was and the odds are he'll never be. But the strange combination of Caine, Law, Pinter and Branagh provide a brief, divertimento, concocted originally and with enormous success by a light weight thriller writer, turned upside down not nearly as successfully, by a heavy weight intellectual. An oddity worth part of your afternoon.
Just under 90 minutes that's all it takes to retell this Anthony Shaffer comedy of deception and disguise. The characters are not quite the same, this ones allow the darker side of their nature take the upper-hand. The new house is a cold technological monstrosity instead of the country manor of Laurence Olivier. In Harold Pinter's hand and brain everything is colder, darker and Shaffer's original comedy risks to become Ira Levin's "Deathtrap" at times. Michael Caine and Jude Law are inches away from a kiss here and that's a bizarre turn of events. True, Jude Law has a sexual presence that he carries as if he didn't know was there. Everything he says has a sexual connotation whether consciously or unconsciously. His Milo Tindle looks decidedly post coital. A bit undone, unwashed. Kenneth Brannagh conducts his duet with gusto but limited not just by the natural setting of the play but by the memory of the Manckiewicz original. Caine and Law make a fun, dirty pair and it's the power of their performances that makes this very short version appear even shorter. I could have stay a few more minutes with this two. That, I suppose, it's a form of giving it a thumbs up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watched at the Toronto International Film Festival
I must declare my bias at the very outset, as one who has seen the indelible 1972 original 3 times and consider it nothing short of absolutely brilliant. This remake, in my bias view, Harold Pinter script notwithstanding, is a disappointment. In some cases, trimming the original to a leaner and tightly packed version works. For Sleuth, however, trimming it from 138 minutes to 86 minutes is tantamount to cutting out the very essence that makes the movie click. I'll come back to this.
If you have not seen the original, you probably should not read on. In the first place, there are SPOILERS aplenty. But even if you've seen the remake, there is probably not much point because this is exclusively a comparison with the original and assumes that you've seen it.
One look from the start and you know that people are trying to "update" this all-time classic. The electronic gadgets and ultra-modern set design would almost make you believe that you are watching a Sci-fi. I don't find it objectionable. After all, it's just style. The substances seems to be there, at least initially, as we see Act 1 unfold, lean and compact, with Caine now playing Olivier's role of super-rich mystery writer Andrew Wyke. The character is somewhat updated also, as Caine skillfully plays out the explosive emotion of a cuckolded husband. Explosive emotion however does not always equate with fine drama. Personally, I would prefer Olivier's stiff-upper-lip portrayal, where a sarcastic, icy sneer digs deeper, into another level of his detestation.
Jude Law is a bit of a pleasant surprise in Act 2, in his performance as Scotland Yard Inspector Doppler. Playing Caine's original role of wife-stealer Milo Tindle, he is adequate. (This is in fact the second time he play's Caine's role in a remake, the first being "Alfie"). But as Tindle's alter ego coming for revenge, he shines. Physically, he is in fact a little more recognizable than Caine, but his superb acting does the trick.
But things start to fall apart after he has revealed his identity. What has been missing becomes more and more noticeable, eventually becoming a gaping hole the remake lacks a soul. The essence of the movie is in the two people playing games. The original takes the time and details necessary to develop this key element right from the beginning, when Wake calls to Tindle who nonchalantly handles a game piece on his complicated board game, "Put it back, it has taken me very a long time to get it to where it is" (something like that). Every detail points to Wake's seriousness about playing this game from the hideous laughing of the mechanical figure of a sailor to dressing Tindle up as a clown. In the remake, we hear Wyke TALKING a lot about his passion for playing games, but it is far from being convincing.
The worst is yet to come. The best part of the movie in the original is discarded completely. In the original, after Tindle reveals his identity and claims that he has only scored three-love after Wake's six-love first set, the beauty is in how he evens the score. In the original, he accomplishes this by a convoluted plot culminating in making Wyke run around his own house madly to solve three riddles that will allow him to remove incriminating evidence before the police arrive. This is game-playing at the very best. In the remake, there is NOTHING. In its place is a totally contrived sequence suggesting homosexual possibilities which is neither clever nor amusing. Homosexuality is a good subject matter for a lot of movies (see my comments on "Brokeback mountain": http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0388795/usercomments-1631), but to tag it on here to replace a brilliant ending amputated from the original is sheer incompetence.
Granting a few exceptions, remakes usually don't measure up to the original. "Sleuth", unfortunately, is not one of the exceptions. Before you know, it's point, game, set, and match.
Luckily for me, I didn't watch the original 1972 version of Sleuth, so
I didn't know what to expect upon entering the theater, nor did I have
any previous basis of comparison. That's a good thing, you see, as this
slick and stylish one-on-one thriller kept me and my friend on the edge
of our seats throughout its whole 86 minutes running time. Now, this
may seem short for a film like this, but trust me - it's a satisfying
feature, that'll leave you highly entertained once the credits start to
Based on a play, Sleuth confronts two extremely clever British men in a game of trickery and deceit. Our characters are Andrew Wyke (the one and only Michael Cain), an aging famous author who lives alone in a high-tech mansion after his wife Maggie has left him for a younger man; and Milo Tindle, the younger man, an aspiring actor, equipped with charm and wit(portrayed by the always charmantic Jude Law, who demonstrates both qualities once again). When Wyke invite Tindle to his mansion, Tindle seeks to convince the former into letting his wife go by signing the divorce paper. However, Wyke seems far more interested in playing mind games with his wife's new lover, and lures him into a series of actions he thoroughly planned in seeking revenge on his unfaithful spouse.
Much can't be said about what happens from here on out without spoiling the movie, but I'll try the best to bring the jest of what I felt towards the end result whilst speaking in general terms.
As a play would unfold, Sleuth is built of three prominent acts, each raising the stakes our protagonists are willing to take as part of this one-on-one confrontation. However, while I found the first two extremely sarcastic, intriguing and dare I say mean (but not in a cruel manner); the final act was a bit of a let down, one that didn't live up to the lofty anticipation the first two led me into building.
Alas, these reservations of mine are what kept this film from becoming a real treat in my book, and left it more in the realms of an entertaining ride of a lesser value (for me). Still, I don't regret I checked this one out for one second. Law and Caine both hand out terrific performances, with Law outdoing even himself this time. This superb actor demonstrates a wide range of emotions on screen, and tricking even good old cynic me in the second act at that. I really wish he'd gain more recognition for his ongoing work, and the year end awards which are rapidly approaching are a good place to start. If the Academy will dismiss\ignore his work here, I'll be really disappointed this time around.
Another good thing to keep your eye out for while checking this one out is the wonderful camera work and musical theme that haunt you throughout the feature. Special kudos goes to director Kenneth Branagh, who shows us how a talky script could easy become a sufficient thriller by knowing when and where to place the camera, and how to place the proper lighting and music in a given scene. It's this experience and technique that help turn 2007's Sleuth into an effective piece of work; one that's worth taking a look at, if not for the plot, then (to the very least) for the powerful performances by Jude Law and Michael Caine and unique direction by Branagh.
Watched at the International Haifa Film Festival, Israel, October 2007.
The most important thing when you watch this film is to avoid any
comparison with the 1972 classic. Not easy I grant you but essential if
you want to enjoy this film on any level. Any comparison will not be
favourable to this version.
There is an obvious attempt to give this film an ultra modern feel by employing huge amounts of high-tech gadgets and having sleek metal and chrome surfaces on display throughout the house. Kenneth Branagh has made use of various techniques such as showing the action through security cameras and filming from different angles to give this film a unique look. However, none of these things are a problem. There is a slightly excessive use of swear words which does give the impression that the writer was trying desperately to engage a younger audience through any means necessary.
The first half of this film is engaging enough and follows the plot of the original pretty closely. However, the second half is a bit of a mess. Jude Law's performance is laughable and there is a homosexual undercurrent that has no place in the plot and is in fact very damaging to the credibility of the film. The ending is abrupt and totally devoid of tension.
This film is worth a look but don't expect too much. Michael Caine takes on the role of the rich and bitter Andrew Wyke and plays it very well with no attempt to copy Olivier in any way. Jude Law is adequate but not outstanding. This film might be better suited to people who have not seen the original but in its own right this film is still not a classic of our time.
Luckily for me, I saw the original 1972 version of Sleuth. That
production has remained among my all-time favorite pictures, and when I
am called upon to list my personal top-ten, Sleuth 1972 is on it.
Branaugh's new take on this exciting, captivating story is a thrilling, intellectually engaging motion picture. Michael Caine's return to the project in the role of his 1972 opposite gives the picture a haunting quality that I found mesmerizing. I couldn't take my eyes and ears away from the screen, because I didn't want to miss a frame or a sound. I was delighted at seeing a remake (as a film historian, archivist, and movie fanatic, I HATE remakes!) that was just as glorious for me as the original.
I now consider the 1972 version and this re-interpretation to work together as a single remarkable cinematic experience. I was fascinated by the different designs, time-periods, and techniques juxtaposed by the two films working side-by-side. If you appreciate great cinema, and have a hunger to devour only he best movies, I recommend that you see this picture, and run right out to the video store to get the earlier version, too. Don't compare and contrast the two movies, Just sit back, surrender, and be carried away by great dialog, images, sounds, and all of the other things about movies that both of these pictures present and that makes you love them.
Andrew Wyke (Michael Caine) is a famous writer who lives in a monitored
with high tech and stark house . He is a successful novelist , a master
of menace , the number one bestseller author from Baron Books . The
luxurious but cold British mansion is full of modern furniture, cameras
and surveillance activated. There arrives Milo (Jude Law, also
producer), a hairdresser and aspiring actor who seeks to convince the
former for signing the divorce papers and Andrew in seeking avenge on
his detested and unfaithful wife. Then happens a cat and mouse thriller
and both are the peak of their game in this dazzling film. An ultimate
game is being played on its audience.
This lighthearted suspense/mystery is well adapted by Harold Pinter from Anthony Shaffer's hit play about games-playing mystery novelist played by Caine leading his spouse's lover performed by Law into diabolical trap. This interesting movie is plenty of twists and turns and stunning surprises. Splendid and fascinating performances , a real Tour De force for two stars. Cameo by the screenwriter Harold Pinter and director Kenneth Branagh as men on TV. Packs a minimalist soundtrack , including a haunting, remarkable musical leitmotif by Patrick Doyle. Colorful cinematography by Haris Zambarloukis and modern production design. This deliciously sardonic and witty movie is professionally directed by Kenneth Branagh . However, it is inferior the first version that was a flawlessly acted masterpiece directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz, in his last film, with Laurence Olivier and again Michael Caine. In the similar style was subsequently filmed 'Deathtrap' by Sidney Lumet with Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon and also Michael Caine. Rating : Good, delicious from start to finish. It's a great and enjoyable fun.
While the original titillates the intellect, this cheap remake is
designed purely to shock the sensibilities. Instead of intricate
plot-twists, this so-called thriller just features sudden and seemingly
random story changes that serve only to debase it further with each
bizarre development. Worst of all, replacing the original spicy dialog
is an overturned saltshaker full of unnecessary four-letter words,
leaving behind a stark, but uninteresting taste.
There was promise--unfulfilled promise. The prospect of Michael Caine pulling off a Patty Duke-like Keller-to-Sullivan graduation is admittedly intriguing. Unfortunately, this brilliant and respected actor only tarnished his reputation, first by accepting the role in this horribly re-scripted nonsense and then by turning in a performance that only looks competent when compared to Jude Law's amateurish overacting.
If you haven't seen the classic original, overlook its dated visuals and gimmicks. Hunt it down, watch it, and just enjoy a story-and-a-half. As for the remake, pass on this insult to the original.
"If thou canst cuckold him, thou dost thyself a pleasure, me a sport."
Iago in Shakespeare's Othello
Anthony Shaffer's brother, Peter, was famously about "What's that all about?" if you remember the mysteries of Equus. Playwright Anthony's Sleuth also requires a competent literary "sleuth" to figure out the multiple levels of meaning in a film that could be just about revenge if you looked no further. This brilliant adaptation by Pulitzer-winner and minimalist Harold Pinter contains his usual spare dialogue and non sequitur logic to provoke wonderment and amusement in a discerning audience that knows there's more than meets the eye and ear.
Wealthy novelist Andrew Wyke (Michael Caine) is visited in his impressive estate by his wife's lover, Milo Tindle (Jude Law). From the first interchange about the superiority of Wyke's car, which is placed nose to nose with Tindle's in an obviously figurative bird's-eye shot, the debate takes on a tennis metaphor, where each combatant takes a set and the resolution becomes a tangled endgame.
While it is easy to guess Shaffer has planned the author initially to be the manipulative superior as he guides his guest through one of the year's best set designs with its modern sharp edges and dazzling electronics, the play/film evolves with each character (this is a two hander where not even the tennis-ball wife physically intrudes) gets a chance to prove his worth for the absent but always present wife. Director Kenneth Branagh's close-ups are merciless upon Caine's age lines emphasizing his wisdom and Law's beauty featuring his youthful volatility and vulnerability. But the prevalent high angle motif puts all the mayhem in perspective: The cuckold will not be denied, no matter how daring, resourceful, and remorseless the intruder is; the men's sexuality will be challenged no matter how masculine the actors are. Ambiguity rules as it should in all effective literature and in life itself.
While the screenplay is literate beyond anything out there all year, the film belongs to the actors, Law soaring beyond his Ripley charm and Caine even better than when he played Law's Tindle in a previous screen version 35 years ago. The story about infidelity is universally appealing, as if it had never been told before and justice had never been rendered so well.
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