Also I have very fond memories of the 1975 version that was set in a castle I believe and had far more atmosphere than this film. The film was also very predictable hardly straying from the original in story so there were no real surprises when it all came down to it. Who ever decided to set this in a modern "artsy" house should be boxed behind the ears, it ruined the entire film. 1 Star 12-19-13
A mind game about control, one upmanship, love, money and lonliness. A low budget flick that holds your attention throughout and you will certainly have a love it or hate it feeling come the end.
The film does suffer from an almost-too-busy set design, and at the end of the day, while this may seem like a contradiction, there truly is only so much even a writer as skilled as Pinter can do with this material.
Overall, this is worth an hour and a half of your time, especially if you saw the original.
It not only boasts of its famous costars (having the original Milo Tindle yes, Michael Caine, but this time he's the one filling Laurence Olivier's shoes as the eloquent and misanthropic novelist Andrew Wyke) but also a screenplay by Harold Pinter and (a flat) direction by Kenneth Branagh.
Absolutely zero charm and wit compared to the original.
Sleuth is a film that is full of dead ends. You think you're going one way but are actually just getting stopped and turned around to start over again. Even in the end you're waiting for that row of bushes to turn you on your way. Very few films have achieved confinement (Hitchcock was the master of it), but Sleuth makes this big, cold house feel like a techno-tomb that these to men will compete to the death in.
I really didn't care for Jude Law in this film. His acting was way over the top and befitted a 1930's pirate serial. Maybe if he did something original... Michael Caine is brilliant as usual and really pulls this film out of the remake muck that it is. He's brilliant in his role.
A word of warning: this is a remake and my appetite is we to see how that film ran with Caine in Law's role and Laurence Olivier in Caine's role. This sounds like a superior film. This version is just Caine giving Law acting lessons.
Such an odd set doesn't help matters; in fact it almost becomes the star of the movie, a universe in which the players simply revolve around and interact within.
Branagh as director uses all the techno gadgets to reasonably good effect, shooting scenes as seen from within the security system; but the addition of all the surveilance cameras ends up begging the question - with the entire affair being taped (even with judicious editing by Caine), how can anyone possibly think that either charactor was going to get away with their deadly cat and mouse game? I guess that's what happens when you try to update a classic - you end up with unexplained plot points that weren't even in the original.
I also must add that while perhaps the gay angle was a shocker in the 70's (though I don't remember it as such), in today's jaded world it doesn't register more than a tired yawn; an ambiguity to be glossed over as just another twist in the game the two protagonists are playing.
Consider first its source material. The original Sleuth, which in itself was an adaptation of a play, was highly literate and a little bit stuffy but incredibly clever nonetheless. This makes many of the same bids at intelligence while excising that stuffiness, but when it deviates from the original movie, it fails horrifically. The last twenty minutes, for instance, are new: a psychosexual pissing contest that tries to be mentally probing but just ends up laughable and vaguely smutty instead. It's like Basic Instinct's gay leftovers. And just like Basic Instinct, this is trash masquerading as brilliance, living under the impression that being dialogue-driven automatically lends it intellectual credibility. The result is something you feel a little embarrassed for as you watch.
But the movie isn't unwatchable - it's just very different and enjoyable on a separate level from the original Sleuth. The set design is neat, opting for a sort of technological utopia versus the eerie toyhouse of the first movie. There's something very interesting about the directorial decisions Kenneth Branagh makes: he rarely films the actors face-on. There are a multitude of above-the-head shots, or shots via surveillance cameras, or shots interlaced by blinds. Michael Caine and Jude Law rarely appear in the frame together. I wasn't really sure why he was playing around with the cinematography so much, until I read a review that suggested he was trying to meta the whole movie. Remind us that it was a big theatrical mess. I totally understand that, because there are a few bits of dialogue that sort of take the piss out of the whole thing.
As for the participants themselves...Michael Caine, playing the role he played against in the first movie, is obviously having a good time. There's a lot for him to do here: he gets to be devious, arrogant, bemused, terrified, lovelorn, gayyy, murderous. It's an overly theatrical dream! Jude Law can't really match stride, and I get the feeling he was taking the whole thing more seriously, but damn if he isn't bangin'. His hair is gross-looking and he weighs about 90 pounds soaking wet, but I would nail that. He kind of fits in with the lurid trampiness of the whole affair. So I forgive him his diminished understanding.
Anyway, Sleuth is a really big but entirely entertaining mess. I understand why it didn't get much of a theatrical run, because there's no audience for this kind of movie. Still, I imagine it'll get rediscovered ten years from now by people who are looking for ignored "clash of the movie stars!!!" flicks that are full of camp sensibilities. Sleuth does a great job filling those shoes.
Sleuth (whatever that means) is actually a remake of a 1972 film of the same name which also starred Michael Caine. Its about two guys who tries to outsmart each other by playing games and the backdrop is a Georgian manor in some secluded area.
The only thing that really stood out here (I'm having a hard time with the plot, what's up with those guys?) are the performances of both actors, Caine and Law. Michael Caine's performance shook me to the bone. I didn't know he was that intense if given a really good dialogue and on the other hand Law's performance is menacing. His intensity matches Caine's sometimes its hard to identify who's the better actor between the two.
As I said, I'm having a hard time understanding what's really happening and I think what happened in the film is unlikely to happen in real life. If you want to kill a guy who screws your wife, just go over to him and shoot him in the head point blank. Not play games with him and then shoot him afterwards, its just preposterous.
Caine and Law's performances did it for me so its a 3.
It was only when I watched it a second time that I realised there are more good things than bad on offer, and I began to appreciate Pinter's novel tinkering with the character relationships. For instance, Andrew Wyke's (Michael Caine's) adulterous spouse is now an old man's trophy wife, rather than a toy boy's meal ticket. More interesting still, Pinter turns the love-triangle completely on its head, leaving the woman out in the cold, for a time at least.
The use of CCTV to internalise the outside world is ingenious, but it creates a glaring problem that the script fails to address: prospective burglar Milo Tindle (Jude Law) doesn't think to ask Wyke about the ubiquitous cameras, and strangely but conveniently, Detective Inspector Black never asks to see any surveillance footage of Tindle's visit. The 1972 "Sleuth" was a fascinating summit meeting of two very different acting schools; the 2007 version is more David versus Goliath than a clash of titans, and Jude Law definitely forgot to bring his slingshot. Seemingly aware that he is being acted off the screen, Law overplays to the hilt. Caine, however, is brilliant.
On his sprawling country estate, an aging writer matches wits with the struggling actor who has stolen his wife's heart.