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Sony Pictures // R // March 11, 2008
List Price: $38.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted March 10, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

There's something about Sleuth that seems to massively disrupt the space-time continuum. Follow me here for a second: the film stars, in fact the only actors to speak of, are Jude Law, who produced the film, and Michael Caine. Law had previously remade Alfie, a film starring Caine. And Caine appears in this film as the older of two gentlemen, in a remake of a film where he starred as the younger one in the original. Quite frankly, what's amazing about the intertwining career arcs of Law and Caine appears to be you apparently can't get to Kevin Bacon in more than two moves (older ones, explain that to the younger ones).

So now that I've tied a pretty long string to my finger, let me get back to the issue at hand. Sleuth is a remake of the 1972 film with Caine and Laurence Olivier, based on Anthony Shaffer's play. And while Shaffer is no longer with us to rewrite his play for another version of his film, Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter is, and adapts the play with a couple of changes. This version finds Caine playing successful suspense author Andrew Wyke, who on a quiet night at his countryside home, entertains the company of Milo Tindle (Law), a part-time actor who we find out is seeing Wyke's wife. The two begin an entertaining intellectual game of cat and mouse over various things, or the usual guy things I should say, like the size of one's car, sexual prowess, etc. What makes the discussion compelling is watching these two men deliver compliments with as much backhandedness as possible; you can feel the tension underneath the surface, and it stays there for quite a while. Soon, Wyke begins to admire or even respect Tindle, and offers him a proposition; Wyke will not agree to a divorce, but if Tindle would like to "break in" to his home and steal some jewels from a locked safe, he's more than welcome to sell them and pocket the change, as a payoff of sorts. When Wyke starts to reconsider on the deal, that's when business begins to pick up in this town.

Directed by Kenneth Brannagh (Henry V), it seems clear that all three parties know what the allure is to the film: the interaction between Wyke and Tindle. Law begins with an unknowing type of playfulness in his actions, while Caine's moves are more measured initially, they become more ferocious as the first act unfolds, and this venom diminishes as the story unfolds, whereas Law's cruelty becomes more and more visceral. It seems clear at least to this lowly reporter that over the last decade, Caine appears to have rediscovered his style and delivery, and he is excellent as Wyke.

Unfortunately, things get a little bit muddied into the second and third acts. Now my exposure to Sleuth has only been through the remake and apparently the original film was excellent. But there's a twist in the remake that a lot of people have dismissed as being silly. For fear of having my legs broken, I won't reveal it, but when it comes to this remake, what's the harm in going where Pinter did with it? So when things happened the way they did, I went along for the ride, willing to give the actors the benefit of the doubt. After that, the third act's pseudo "twist" of sorts seems to be for the sake of shock, but the ending just comes off as being a little bit too conventional. In fact, I'll even say that it cheapened the movie for me and considering the pedigree of the participants, they should be ashamed of themselves a little. For those who have seen the origina,l and after doing a little research on it, I can understand why there might be some dislike for this one.

The Blu-ray Disc:

Sleuth comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 AVC MPEG-4 encode, as most Sony releases do. The bitrate appears to be slightly less than other discs that possess a similar codec, but having said that, the film's action occurs in a lot of overhead lighting that appears native to the location, so there's not the level of detail in the tight shots that one would come to expect. The image also sports a bit of softness from time to time that is a letdown, but it's still a decent presentation.


You get a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack for Sleuth, and it's a decent one at that. Sure, this is nothing but dialogue, but it's firmly rooted in the center channel without very little wavering, and the cars that drive up to Wyke's house virtually sizzle through the gravel, it sounds so clear. There's even a scene (yes, one whole scene) where your subwoofer will wake up and fill in on the low end for you. It's a fairly straightforward film, and the sound helps illustrate that.


There are two commentaries which aren't too bad. Brannagh and Caine discuss the film on the first one, and Brannagh asks Caine how he was approaching a particular scene, along with his memories of the first one. It's talked about later, but for 74 years of age, Caine looks great and his recollection is excellent. Brannagh even manages to keep the track spoiler-free also. It's a lively and enjoyable track for the feature. The second is with Law who is a little more low key, but does share his thoughts on particular scenes and on the production itself. He likes talking about his appearance in the film, mentioning it several times, but he also manages to provide some occasionally valuable information from the producer's side of things. It's an average commentary, but it makes me wonder why the trio couldn't have reunited for a solo track...?

After said commentaries, you've got two featurettes to choose from. "A Game of Cat And Mouse" (15:00) is the making-of look where Caine, Law and Brannagh discuss their thoughts on the story and on how good everyone is, along with their interpretations of the characters, while Pinter discusses this version of the play. "Inspector Black" (2:34) shows the makeup process that was used to create the character in the aforementioned title. Trailers for Saawariya, Jane Austen Book Club, Across The Universe, We Own The Night, 30 Days Of Night, Closer and The Holiday complete the disc.

Final Thoughts:

The technical merits are good, but not great, and the extras are fairly threadbare, save for an excellent commentary. And to be honest, I can't really dismiss Sleuth summarily, simply because of how entranced I was with the film's first act. So if you've never seen the original or the remake, then by all means, please go and check it out. Be warned though, things might get a little "American" in their storytelling as the film unfolds, so you could wind up being disappointed at how things turn out.

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