Jude Law and Michael Caine square off in Sleuth, a remake of an earlier Caine movie where he played Law's character. Law plays the lover of Caine's wife, and the two match wits in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
The title Sleuth is rather misleading, as the movie is not really about a detective, a mystery or anything else that "sleuth" indicates. The movie begins with Milo Tindle (Law), a struggling actor, arriving at successful writer Andrew Wyke's (Michael Caine) mansion. The two have an interesting relationship - Andrew's wife has all but left him for the younger Milo - but that does not stop them with devising a plan to rob the mansion so that Milo can run away with lots of money and Andrew can collect the insurance money. Except... things aren't exactly what they appear to be.
Sleuth is about two men trying to one-up another, to humiliate the other more than the other. Both view each other with extreme hatred, yet respect that they are similar in more ways than one; the worse they do to one another, the more they want to retaliate. To describe the plot any more specifically would be giving too much away, but director Kenneth Branagh and Harold Pinter have devised a crafty, clever and engaging thriller based on the play by Anthony Shaffer. I would call the movie unique if it weren't a remake, but Sleuth is a thriller without a villain and a drama without protagonists.
Caine and Law, two of the best actors in the game today, are great. As the only two people in the entire film, the movie rests upon their shoulders and they handle it well. It's great to see these two together, especially when they're squaring off against one another. I would say it's the handing of the torch, but Caine still seems to be at the peak of his career after all these years. Law continues to be denied the recognition he deserves.
The movie itself is quite good; I can't comment on how it compares to the original as I haven't seen that film, but despite the fact that it's a remake that is subsequently based on a play, Sleuth is an entertaining thriller that keeps you guessing. Branagh's direction carefully stays away from making the movie feel too much like a play; in fact, the thought never occurred to me until I looked the movie up on IMDB.
Sleuth is a fun little movie that will appeal to audiences who enjoy dialogue-driven thrillers. Fans of Caine and Law should certainly check it out. Ultimately, the movie will be forgotten and relegated to that "I've never heard of this one before" category, but until that time, Sleuth is a worthwhile picture.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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