Directed by Kenneth Branagh
I'll make it clear from the start. I have not seen the original 70's film "Sleuth," so I cannot make any type of comparison. Oddly enough, the old "Sleuth" stars Michael Caine, who is in this film in the other role. The Caine role is played by Jude Law, who played Alfie in remake of "Alfie" another Michael Caine role. Spooky. . .
"Sleuth" is an odd little film, and I was a little taken aback when it was over. I simply didn't really know how to rate it, how I felt about it. I liked most aspects of it, but on the whole it did not strongly satisfy me. I didn't walk away from the screening room with the same feelings I had after, say, "Nothing Is Private," or "Persepolis." Honestly, I haven't given it much of a thought since the credits rolled. Based on a play by Anthony Shaffer, "Sleuth" is a two man acting job with Michael Caine and Jude Law. Nobody else is in the film. Caine plays Andrew Wyke, a very rich crime fiction writer who lives in a country estate loaded to the brim with all types of technology and computer systems. He is visited by Milo Tindle one day, by invitation. The two have a little bit of conversation, both trying to be more successful than the other, and then it is revealed that Milo has been sleeping with Andrew's wife, Maggie. And the verbal cat and mouse game begins, each one trying to match wits with the other. The victor gets the girl, in essence, and the game begins.
"Sleuth' reminded me a lot of a film I liked a lot earlier this summer called "Interview," directed by Steve Buscemi and starring Buscemi and Sienna Miller. That film also was an eighty minute verbal cat and mouse game, all taking place in one room and just interactions between the two. The only difference is there was an actual amount of tension in that film. You could never tell exactly who was lying, telling the truth, being serious, or shooting out bull. "Sleuth" has these two men playing tricks and games with one another, but there is never an amount of tension. I always knew that they were lying. In one scene, Law dons a disguise and tries to scare Andrew in that way. It's clearly Jude Law under the beard and glasses, and I didn't buy that the Caine character didn't realize it. When they are lying and playing games is quite clear to the audience, and I was never left guessing.
I suppose this lack of mystery added to the characters-these are two men that really are somewhat full of themselves, finding themselves much strong than they are. There is an amount of irony in the way things turn out because of this view of themselves, and then how they actually are. I can see how the script-written by Harold Pinter-made this more about character than plot, but I wish it included both. I wanted to guess a bit, to be fooled, and to be able to make smart character observations.
Two things that are great about the movie are the acting-Caine and Law are both terrific, and they do have quite a big of chemistry together. Another thing is the direction by Kenneth Branagh, who really does a great job at making Caine's house a third character, filling it with all kinds of color-shades of blue and red, especially-and he does have a lot of camera tricks up his sleeve. "Sleuth" has its positive attributes, but in the end it is quite forgettable.