Tuesday, June 10, 2008


It is said that Michael Caine was terrified that Laurence Olivier would upstage him in the 1972 version of Sleuth. Some 35 years later Caine starred in the second Sleuth, and, we presume, had no such worries.

In case you missed either, here's the synopsis: Andrew Wyke, an aging but prolific and famous author invites Milo Tindle, the struggling actor who cuckolded him, to his mansion for a little cat-and-mouse game. Things turn ugly when nothing and no one is as they seem.

It was terribly shocking when Laurence Olivier says to the young Michael Caine, "You're fucking my wife." It's not as shocking so many years later when an older Caine, reversing roles, utters that line to Jude Law's Milo. After all, that was the great Olivier, playing opposite Alfie, whose swearing is not so traumatic to us. And so the screenplay seems a bit dated. Still, the whole thing is about the two men, even the two actors. There seems to be a third character in the play: the house. It's teched up here, as only a house in the new millennium could be. And perhaps there's even a third: director Kenneth Branagh. His tricky camera angles were distracting at first, but even so, achieved the backstory of explaining the motion detector system before any dialogue has been exchanged. Unfortunately, Branagh still spends an inordinate amount of time letting Wyke wield a home security remote control. It's a bit boring, but it's still a necessary set up.

I remembered the first half of the original as I was watching this film. I was surprised how easily it all came back even though there are new faces to watch. The second half, however, was as surprising as ever, and as shocking.

Even if you remember the whole screenplay, watch Caine and Law. Law, who with Branagh, produced the film, may have been shaking in his boots at the thought of re-creating this award-winning play, but he doesn't show it. He's equal to the task. Just watching the two of them is worth the set-up time and, certainly, the pay off.

Thumb's up.


At 2:23 PM, Blogger Sheryl said...

This review was tickling my brain as something not quite right - until I realized that I was thinking of Deathtrap - not Sleuth. I'll have to add both to my list to re-watch and watch respectively.

I must have been confused because I just saw Caine (who I love) with Christopher Reeve in Noices Off recently (absolutely hilarious - I had never seen it before)

I hope all is well with you (all)


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