Sleuth

Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Michael Caine, Jude Law, Harold Pinter, Carmel O’Sullivan

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Adapted from Anthony Schaffer’s original play, this modern re-working of the original 1972 film version starring Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier is intelligently updated by a Harold Pinter screenplay to an edgier, more psychological study of the power tussle between two men. But whilst Jude Law and Michael Caine are stellar in the title roles in this tale of macho pride with homoerotic undertones, I suspect this version, as much as I dislike to categorise, might belong in the box marked ‘for actors or thesps’.

Young upstart Milo Tindle (Jude Law) arrives at bestselling Crime Writer Andrew Wyke’s (Michael Caine) isolated country pile, to negotiate a divorce between Wyke and his wife – so that Tindle can marry her instead. But if he thinks that Wyke is going to roll over like a docile Dalmatian and play ball he’s got another thing coming….

Jude Law’s Tindle is by turns vulnerable, incredibly arrogant, and finally driven to the point of insanity by Caine’s jealous, lonely but wily Andrew Wyke, who’s not going to let this cocky whippersnapper walk in and dent his pride. Wyke leads him through a few devious hoops and up the garden path in his creepy, interior designed, laser show of a bat lair. And when Milo bites, and retaliates, the game is 1-all in a best of 3. Will there by any winners in the third set?

Based on an already implausible premise which sadly just seems all the more implausible on screen, the film is however an interesting and intriguing examination of the themes of power, jealousy, pride, and ego. Each character’s penchant for power leads them into a kind of homoerotic obsession, each determined to beat the other at their own game, with the stakes growing ever higher. It is though arguably one of the best screen performances Jude Law has given, as he is driven to the edge by Caine’s assured portrayal of Wyke.

The power struggle makes for uncomfortable watching, whilst the psychological portrait of two frankly not very nice characters is damning. But if you can suspend your disbelief of the main concept, this is an enjoyable study of two twisted male egos, made all the more potent by Pinter’s biting screenplay, and Tim Harvey’s wonderful set, which not only complements but enhances the darkness of Pinter’s script.

4 out of 6 stars

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