Theatrical release poster
December 25, 2009
Sherlock Holmes is a 2009 British-American action mystery film based on the character of the same name created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film was directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey and Dan Lin. The screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg was developed from a story by Lionel Wigram and Michael Robert Johnson. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law portray Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson respectively. In the film, Holmes and his companion Watson, with aid from former adversary Irene Adler, investigate a series of murders connected to occult rituals. Mark Strong plays the villain Lord Blackwood, who has somehow returned after his execution with a plot to take over the British Empire using an arsenal of dark arts and new technologies.
In 1890, London detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his partner and flatmate Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) race to prevent the ritual murder of a woman by Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who has killed five other young women similarly. They stop the murder before Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) and the police arrive to arrest Blackwood.
Three months later, Holmes' eccentric behavior again annoys Watson. While he enjoys their adventures together, Watson looks forward to marrying Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly) and leaving 221B Baker Street. Meanwhile, Blackwood has been sentenced to death and requests to see Holmes in prison, where he warns of three more unstoppable deaths that will cause great changes to the world. Blackwood is subsequently hanged and pronounced dead by Watson. Three days later, Holmes is visited by Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a professional thief and his former adversary, who asks him to find a missing man named Luke Reordan. After her departure, Holmes follows her as she meets with her secret employer, hidden in the shadows of a carriage. The concealed man states that Reordan is the key to Blackwood's plans. Holmes only learns that the man is a professor and that he intimidates Adler.
Blackwood's tomb is destroyed from the inside out, Reordan is found dead inside the coffin, and sightings of a living dead Blackwood, which has left a gravedigger in shock, cause public panic. Following a series of clues from the body, Holmes and Watson find Reordan's home and discover experiments attempting to merge science with magic. After they survive a battle with Blackwood's men, Holmes is taken to the Temple of the Four Orders, a secret magical organization. The leaders – Lord Chief Justice Sir Thomas Rotheram (James Fox), U.S. Ambassador Standish (William Hope), and Home Secretary Lord Coward (Hans Matheson) – ask Holmes to stop Blackwood, a former member of the society and, as Holmes deduces from physical similarities, Sir Thomas's son. Sir Thomas and Standish are later killed through apparently supernatural means by Blackwood, allowing him to control the Order. He plans to overthrow the British government, then conquer the United States and the world. He lures Holmes to a warehouse where he finds Adler, chained to a hook, gagged, and heading towards a bandsaw, though he saves her in time. However, Watson is injured in a series of explosions set up by Blackwood. Lord Coward, secretly working with Blackwood, issues an arrest warrant for Holmes.
Holmes goes into hiding and studies Blackwood's rituals, concluding that the next target is Parliament. Holmes tricks Coward into revealing that the plan is to kill its members. He, Adler and Watson discover a machine below the Palace of Westminster, based on Reordan's experiments, designed to release cyanide gas into the Parliament chambers, killing everyone but Blackwood and his supporters, to whom Blackwood slipped the antidote. Blackwood walks into Parliament and announces that soon all but his supporters will die. As Holmes and Watson battle Blackwood's men, Adler removes the cyanide containers from the machine and flees, pursued by Holmes. Blackwood and Coward realize their plan has failed; Coward is captured but Blackwood escapes. Holmes confronts Adler on top of the incomplete Tower Bridge, but is interrupted by Blackwood. As Holmes and Blackwood fight, Holmes tricks him into becoming entangled in the ropes and chains hanging over the Thames, while Holmes explains the technical trickery behind Blackwood's supposed magic. After a climatic fight, Blackwood, with a noose of chains around his neck, falls from the bridge and is hanged.
Adler explains that her employer is Professor Moriarty, warning that Moriarty is as intelligent as Holmes but far more devious. As Watson moves out of 221B, the police report to him and Holmes that a dead officer was found near Blackwood's device. Moriarty used the confrontations with Adler and Blackwood as a diversion while he took a key component, based on the new science of radio, from the machine. Holmes looks forward to the new case and new adversary.
- Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes: A bohemian scientist and eccentric detective-for-hire who becomes a wanted fugitive in his hunt for Lord Blackwood, while constantly being followed by the presence of Professor Moriarty. Downey was visiting Joel Silver's offices with his wife, producer Susan Downey, when he learned about the project. Ritchie initially felt Downey was too old for the role because he wanted the film to show a younger Holmes on a learning curve like Batman Begins. Ritchie decided to take a chance on casting him in the role, and Downey told the BBC that "I think me and Guy are well-suited to working together. The more I look into the books, the more fantastic it becomes. Holmes is such a weirdo". intended to focus more on Holmes' patriotic side and his bohemianism, and felt that his work on Chaplin has prepared him for an English accent. Ritchie feels his accent is "flawless". Both Downey and Ritchie are martial arts enthusiasts, and have been inspired by the Baritsu mentioned in the 1901 story The Adventure of the Empty House. lost weight for the part, because during a chat he had with Chris Martin, Martin recommended that Holmes look "gaunt" and "skinny".
- Jude Law as Dr. John Watson: Holmes' companion and close friend, who is also a surgeon and a veteran of the Second Afghan War. Law's Watson is more like the original character, who was more of a colleague, rather than the bumbling fool that actor Nigel Bruce popularised in the 1930s–40s films. Law previously appeared in the Granada Television series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, in an episode based on The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place. Being a Holmes fan, Law recognised there was material unexplored in other adaptations and was intrigued by Downey's casting; Law was cast because he had a positive meeting with Downey and concurred the film would have to explore Holmes and Watson's friendship. Downey believed by emphasizing Watson's qualities as a former soldier, a doctor, a womaniser and a gambler, it would make for a more interesting foil for Holmes. Law made a notebook of phrases from the stories to improvise into his dialogue. Ritchie originally envisioned Russell Crowe in the role.
- Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood: The main antagonist. An aristocratic serial killer dabbling in the occult to compel others to do his bidding. Having returned after his execution, Blackwood unravels plans to control the British Empire. He is given many supernatural elements to his character, and his presence is usually accompanied by a menacing crow. Strong worked with director Ritchie for the third time and said he appreciates the director's lack of ego and how easy he is to work with.
- Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, an American femme fatale from New Jersey who outwitted Holmes twice, as chronicled in Doyle's story A Scandal in Bohemia. In the film, Adler is no longer married to Godfrey Norton and needs Holmes' help for the case. Downey convinced Ritchie to cast McAdams, arguing she would not look too young to be his love interest.
- Kelly Reilly as Mary Morstan, whom Watson wishes to marry, causing a conflict with Holmes.
- Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade, an investigator from Scotland Yard who hires Holmes to look into the murders. Unlike in many previous adaptations, Lestrade is not portrayed as a bumbling inspector, but is shown to be a rather competent officer (though he is relatively fed up with Holmes).
- Hans Matheson as Lord Coward, the Home Secretary, who is Blackwood's right-hand man, who assisted Blackwood in all his murders and was one of the few of his allies aware of Blackwood's usage of technology to feign magical powers.
- Geraldine James as Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes' landlady. This is James' second Holmes film. She had also portrayed Dr. Mortimer's wife in the 2002 adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
- James Fox as Sir Thomas Rotheram, father of Lord Blackwood and Head of the Four Orders.
- Robert Maillet as Dredger, a French-speaking henchman working for Blackwood.
- William Hope as American Ambassador John Standish
Director Guy Ritchie declined to say who voiced the character of Professor Moriarty.
- Main article: Sherlock Holmes (soundtrack)
The soundtrack for the film was composed by Hans Zimmer. It was released on 12 January 2010.