Film Reviews

Review: Sleuth

Starring: Michael Caine, Jude Law
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

The filmed stageplay is often just avant-garde cinema for the masses; this new version (2007) of Anthony Shaffer’s mystery play Sleuth, here rendered so post-modern by director Kenneth Branagh it was practically dated the moment it was shot, is no exception.

Strictly speaking this is a remake of the 1972 movie of the same name starring Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier; Caine remains on board (now playing Olivier’s part with Jude Law taking his original role) and bolstered by a screenplay from renowned playwright Harold Pinter. The plot is similar to seventies version, though Pinter, who hadn’t seen the previous film beforehand, unfolds the narrative with a greater theatrical emphasis.

Successful novelist Andrew Wyke (Caine) confronts his wife’s younger lover Milo Tindle (Law) in a secluded Wiltshire mansion. They indulge in a cat and mouse game of wits until one of them cracks and there’s blood on the carpet.

Their attire offers signifiers as to which character is in charge at any one time. Caine’s Andrew opens the story dressed in traditional villain’s garb of black wool suit, shirt and silk tie. As games with Tindle progress, his uniform is reduced to the near naked vulnerability of a dressing gown.

Law on the other hand starts out as the dishevelled western hero (he actually wears cowboy boots). His thrown together rigout of suit jacket, waistcoat and Levi jeans bestowing Caine all the power he needs to win the first round. Tindle is a man with champagne taste and a lemonade pocketbook. Andrew grasps this facet and exploits it throughout.

Watching the erratic verbal sparring between these two men, neither of whom offer any indication of their intentions, grows swiftly tiresome. Not because either actor fails to hold the floor, but because the story is idly plotted and then tempered by a blunt ending. All of a sudden the viewer is left pondering ‘eh?’ as Pinter apparently run out of room on his pad.

© 2009 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.