Sunday, January 10, 2010
I saw the movie Sleuth yesterday and it left me slightly... puzzled. I'm not sure what to think or say about it, but I'll give it a try. First of all, it's based on a play and also was made as a movie already in the 70's. Michael Caine played in the 70's movie as well but then as the part of the other character. I decided to watch it simply because of the presence of good actors - Michael Caine and Jude Law. It's also directed by Kenneth Branagh who isn't exactly known to be a bad director.
I didn't know anything about the plot when I started seeing it and that was both good and bad as it turned out. The story revolves around two people, Caine and Law, in a house playing "mindgames" with eachother. There will be no other characters and there will be no other setting, in this way you can clearly tell that it originally comes from a theater setting. It seems Branagh has realised that this could make a movie become a little dull and therefore uses the camera as a sort of third actor and/or setting. Half of the scenes, or more, are shot in odd and disturbing angles. The first 30 minutes of the movie it feels like you've only seen the perifery of things in every scene. Branagh often lets Caine and Law only show through things, and not directly to the viewer. There are also some shots that make me think about Family Guy. Shots that show the same non-changing thing for just a little bit too long.
The plot is quite interesting actually, simple since it only involves very few people and places but advanced in the happenings and trickery between the two actors. It's about deception the whole way through, as a viewer you're never really supposed to know what happens next. And I don't mean next as in the next 30 minutes but as in the next 5 seconds. From the very first scene you realise that the two characters are lunatics... or are they? In that way it resembles "Waiting for Godot". Everything they do and say, especially the dialogue, feels slightly off from the start. The use of camera placement, like mentioned always a bit off, adds strongly to this effect.
Since I didn't know anything about what to expect I simply felt mildly confused the whole movie through. Although I think you get the most of it from not knowing the whole plot, I still think you should know that this is a really odd movie before watching it. I ended up comparing it to the way musicians or singers play or sing spectrums to display their capabilites. This movie feels mostly like a spectrum play for actors. What an actor would choose to play if he had to display his entire set of capabilities to a jury or such. Because this movie is mostly about the acting. And it is good. Jude Law does a really good performance (Caine too, but his character is a little less over the top). But since it's all set in such a strange environment and they both just act odd I still had a hard time enjoying it.
Someone had written on imdb.com that this is a movie for "thinkers". I agree, this movie is best as a display of odd camera work, screenplay and acting. I wouldn't recommend it for entertainment. I'd love to see it as a theater though, which would give full focus on the acting between to people without the weird camera angles.