Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Scene 21: Two Sleuths and One Jude Law

I'm afraid I didn't manage to post yesterday, despite my effort to post every day from now on, but unfortunately my computer froze on me and it was so late, I gave up and went to bed.

Anyway, I've watched a lot of TV and films over the last two days, but I think I want to talk about the film Sleuth - at this point, a good film buff would ask, which one? Because there are two Sleuths, both starring Michael Caine, and both based on the play of the same name by Anthony Shaffer. 

I saw the newer Sleuth (2007) last night which stars Jude Law and was direct Kenneth Branagh - who has directed a few Shakespere screen adaptions, so another play to screen adaption should not come as a surprise. Whilst the play was adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter - who also appears in a little cameo in the TV show Michael Caine's character watches. 

Meanwhile the old Sleuth (1972), which I have also seen years ago, starred Laurence Olivier, was directed by Joesph L. Mankiewicz and the play was adapted for screen by the playwright himself, Anthony Shaffer.

Because both films are based on the same play, they both have the same plot - two men, an old crime author called Andrew Wyke agrees to meet the young man who has run off with his wife, Milo Tindle, at his mansion. Milo wants Andrew to divorce his wife so he can marry her, however it is not that simple - and instead the two men descend into a deadly game of wits. 

However, despite this, as is pointed out in the Wikipedia entry for new Sleuth film, the two films are very different, and I agree with said Wikipedia entry that the new Sleuth is not a remake of the old one.

The new Sleuth changes tack and plot about halfway through, and the mind games take quite a different turn. In the old Sleuth the games were all about murder, but in the new Sleuth the last game revolves around Milo flirting with Andrew - and  I found Jude Law flirting with Michael Caine quite creepy indeed. 

The old Sleuth was very much about murder and theatre, whilst the new one is more brutal, in language and even set design. Though the use of light, effects and angles in the new one is rather good - I particularly like a mirror effect that is used at one point. 

Another thing I must mention is how good, and how scary, Jude Law can be when he plays crazy. I once assumed that, for that some reason, he went in for pretty boy roles. But that was before I'd seen him in a proper film. In recent years I have changed my opinion, after seeing him in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (2009), I Heart Huckabees (2004), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) and now in Sleuth I have to say, he's a pretty damn good character actor, who doesn't seem to be afraid to go for the more unusual roles. 

Anyway, to summarise - I thought the new Sleuth was alright, but I found it harsher than the old one. It had much more swearing, darker tones, cold, clinical sets and I found some of the scenes hard to watch. Personally I find the sinister but quaint 70's Sleuth film more to my tastes. 

Nonetheless, those are just my opinions and I'd urge you to see both films and decide for yourselves, with only one piece of advice. That you view the films as two different takes on the same play as, I think, believing the new Sleuth to be a remake of the old one made me have certain expectations. 

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