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Sherlock: Season One(TV) (2010)
Sherlock Holmes stalks again in a thrilling contemporary version of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the go-to consulting detective in 21st century London, with Martin Freeman as his loyal friend, Dr. John Watson, and Rupert Graves as the long suffering Inspector Lestrade. Fast-paced, funny, and surreally true to the hero's fantastic gifts for deduction.
For more about Sherlock: Season One and the Sherlock: Season One Blu-ray release, see Sherlock: Season One Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 16, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Loo Brealey, Rupert Graves (III), Mark Gatiss
Director: Paul McGuigan
» See full cast & crew
Sherlock: Season One Blu-ray Review
A welcome surprise, all around...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 16, 2010
Brilliant! Yes! Four serial suicides, and now a note. It's Christmas!
Count me among the popcorn-stuffed masses who actually enjoyed Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes earlier this year. The plot itself was fairly inconsequential, sure. The end result was an exercise in style over substance, no doubt. But it was just so much... fun. Still, after watching Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat's sharp, savvy BBC modernization of the Holmes mythos, I can see why Ritchie's critics were in such a huff. Series stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman give Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law a run for their money, Gatiss and Moffat's reimagining is far more cohesive and absorbing, the characters are more fully realized, and the captivating mysteries at the heart of Season One's three 90-minute episodes outclass their Big Screen competition in every way. Frankly, it's enough to make a writer consider updating an old review...
Sherlock doesn't waste much time introducing Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch), now a self-proclaimed 21st century Consulting Detective whose deductive prowess and arrogant antics don't sit well with the local police, to Dr. John Watson (Freeman), a matter-of-fact military physician who returned from Afghanistan with a bullet wound and a psychosomatic limp. The legendary duo's first case, "A Study in Pink," comes when Detective Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) has difficulty closing a rash of strikingly similar suicides. Murder, you say? Indeed. In the course of a single episode (which actually amounts to a feature-length film), Gatiss, Moffat and director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin, Push) deliver convincing origins for Holmes and Watson, effectively develop the pair's partnership, and serve up a taut murder mystery, a creepy serial killer (who's apparently watched The Princess Bride a few too many times), a shadowy puppet master (three guesses who), a strong cast of supporting players and a cerebral adventure worthy of Arthur Conan Doyle's titular heavyweight. But the truly incredible thing about the series' debut is that every aforementioned aspect of the episode hangs in such a near-perfect balance. The showrunners' introduction of modern elements into the framework of Doyle's 19th century novels is unobtrusive and organic, their Holmes and Watson are inspired incarnations of the classic characters, and the performances are exceptional.
Unfortunately, Sherlock's second case stalls; a somewhat distracting issue considering Season One is comprised of three episodes. In their second outing, Holmes and Watson struggle to solve the murders of two seemingly unrelated victims, decipher the meaning of several strange symbols and determine how the disappearance of a young museum worker factors into the crime. To be clear, "The Blind Banker" isn't a failure by any means, and still held my attention from beginning to end. It's merely disappointing compared to "A Study in Pink" and "The Great Game." Holmes tends to stumble across clues rather than discover them (at least for the first two-thirds of the episode), a pack of bland second-string criminals dominate the proceedings, director Euros Lyn (Doctor Who) isn't as sure-handed as McGuigan, and Gatiss and Moffat only inject one exciting new ingredient into the mix: Watson's charming girlfriend, Sarah (Zoe Telford). Misgivings aside, those familiar with Doyle's works will be pleased with the showrunners' faithfulness to the original text -- particularly when it comes to Watson's emerging role and characterization -- and the thrill of the reimagining is fresh enough to propel the series forward. It's just a shame Gatiss and Moffat didn't take the opportunity to really stretch their characters and push things to the next level.
By contrast, "The Great Game" stands atop the rest, all but solidifying the series' hopefully bright and prosperous future. While tracking down a stolen flash drive loaded with top secret missile codes, Holmes and Watson are put to the test by a devious fiend hellbent on their destruction. I doubt the villain's identity will be much of a mystery for the fledgling detectives among you, but I'll keep my lips sealed rather than risk spoiling things for someone new to Doyle's mythos. However, said villain is given as thorough and intriguing a treatment as his deductive nemeses, and his inevitable, oh-so-eccentric reveal is an absolute blast. Yes, the episode's mad-bomber plotline is a wee bit familiar -- Die Hard: With a Vengeance anyone? -- but such pesky trivialities are easy to overlook in light of the punch it packs. What lies in wait? Brisk storytelling, rat-a-tat dialogue, sizzling performances, some fantastic third-act sleight of hand (involving dear Dr. Watson), and smart solutions to several daunting riddles, all courtesy of Gatiss, Moffat, McGuigan, Cumberbatch and Freeman's most stirring efforts yet. My only complaint? It all comes to a startling, open-ended conclusion; a crackling cliffhanger so maddening that late 2011, when the series' second batch of episodes is scheduled to arrive, can't possibly come quickly enough to satisfy this convert.
So take the plunge, dear readers. Smaller releases like Sherlock may not attract the same attention as a multi-million-dollar Hollywood blockbuster -- say, Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes for instance -- but in many ways, Gatiss and Moffat's three-part first season is more engrossing than its cinematic counterpart. Ignore the fears associated with the word "modernization." Cast off any preconceived notions of what the series might be. Shed your doubts and ready your intellect. Sherlock is the real deal and deserves the kind of buzz and word-of-mouth generally reserved for high-dollar theatrical releases.
Sherlock: Season One Blu-ray, Video Quality
A word to the wise: don't allow "1080i" to prematurely set your expectations. Sherlock's 1080i/AVC-encoded presentation is a welcome surprise; one that stands among BBC's better releases. Aside from a spot of minor banding now and again, all three Season One episodes thoroughly impress, rewarding viewers with stark, wintry palettes, smartly saturated skintones, strong contrast leveling and ink-blot shadows (barring a few muted blacks attributable to the series' source). Image clarity is remarkable as well. Closeups yield plenty of fine detail, edges are crisp and clean, textures are often exceedingly refined (especially for a television production) and most every clue Holmes uncovers is as revealing to the viewer as it is to the Great Detective himself. Better still, the encode is polished and proficient. Significant artifacting, aberrant noise, distracting aliasing and the like are held at bay, ringing isn't an issue and each episode hurtles along without a hitch. I, for one, was riveted at every turn.
Sherlock: Season One Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There isn't anything particularly wrong with BBC Video's 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, but there isn't anything extraordinary about it either. Dialogue is bright, clear and neatly centered, effects are distinct and precise, and LFE output is restrained but effective. Likewise, rear speaker activity isn't exactly immersive or overly aggressive -- perhaps to its occasional detriment -- but it's light enough on its feet to satisfy. It helps that Michael Price and David Arnold's pulsing score fills out the soundfield nicely, pans are slick, and dynamics are adequate to the television task at hand. Ultimately, while a lossless track (or even a DTS-HD High Resolution mix, BBC Video's go-to Blu-ray M.O.) would have been most appreciated, this lossy alternative gets the job done.
Sherlock: Season One Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Sherlock: Season One arrives on the scene with more than four hours of special features. The best of the bunch come in the form of two audio commentaries: "A Study in Pink" with writer/executive producer Steven Moffat, executive producer Mark Gatiss and producer Sue Vertue, and "The Great Game" with Gatiss and actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The showrunners' track is a somewhat reserved, technical dissection of the series, but the trio touch on everything from the genesis of the project to casting to the shoot itself. Directors, performances, photography, story, dialogue and character are discussed at length, and there aren't any lulls in the producers' analysis. The actors chat is just as informative, albeit a bit more entertaining. Cumberbatch and Freeman's dry humors spice things up perfectly, and Gatiss keeps the pair focused. Both tracks are excellent though, and fans of Sherlock will only have one complaint: that "The Blind Banker" doesn't offer a commentary as well. From there, treat yourself to "Unlocking Sherlock" (HD, 33 minutes), a candid and extensive production documentary that digs into the process behind modernizing Doyle's detective and transplanting classic elements from the stories into the 21st century, and "Pilot: A Study in Pink" (HD, 55 minutes), an early, pre-broadcast version of the series' first episode.
Sherlock: Season One Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sherlock: Season One is a well-conceived, exquisitely constructed three-part opening volley that, second-episode imperfections aside, stands far apart from other literary modernizations and reimaginings. And its Blu-ray release? Worth the investment. With a striking video transfer, a decent Dolby Digital audio track and more than four hours of supplemental content, series fans and newcomers won't miss a penny of the cash they shell out. Enjoy! The game is truly afoot...
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