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Kenneth Branagh
Michael Caine, Jude Law, Harold Pinter
Writing Credits:
Harold Pinter, Anthony Shaffer (play)

Obey the rules.

Directed by critically-acclaimed director Kenneth Branagh, Jude Law and two-time Oscar-winner Michael Caine join forces in this sharp-witted, modern adaptation of the 1972 classic, Sleuth. Locked in a high-tech English manor, bound in a deadly duel of wits, Andrew Wyke (Caine) and Milo Tindle (Law) come together as English gentlemen to discuss the matter of Wyke's wife: the woman both are sleeping with. But as wit becomes wicked and clever becomes cutthroat, Wyke and Tindle's game of one-upmanship spirals out of control, in an escalating chess match that can have only one outcome: murder.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$46.265 thousand on 9 screens.
Domestic Gross
$342.835 thousand.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $26.96
Release Date: 3/11/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Kenneth Branagh and Actor Michael Caine
• Audio Commentary with Actor Jude Law
• “A Game of Cat and Mouse: Behind the Scenes of Sleuth” Featurette
• “Inspector Black: Make-Up Secrets Revealed” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Sleuth (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 27, 2008)

1972’s Sleuth already offered a thriller with a twist due to its severely restricted cast. For the 2007 remake, that original conceit continues but with a new wrinkle: one of the actors from the prior flick shows up again but in a different part. That’s an interesting concept, but it remains to be seen if it’s enough to reinvent Sleuth as something new and fresh.

In Sleuth, we meet Andrew Wyke (Michael Caine), an eccentric mystery novelist. The soon-to-be-divorced author lives alone on his palatial estate, and one day he invites Milo Tindle (Jude Law) to visit him. This occurs because Milo plans to marry Andrew’s almost-ex Maggie, and Andrew wants to see if the young man meets his approval.

As it happens, Andrew possesses an ulterior motive or twelve. After the initial “getting to know you” process, Andrew reveals that he needs money, so he proposes a deal. If Milo will steal some jewelry Andrew originally gave to Maggie, he can keep the valuable trinket while Andrew collects the insurance money. This will allow Milo the cash-strapped out of work actor to keep Maggie in the lifestyle to which she is accustomed while it also gives Andrew the money to maintain his mistress.

However, we soon see that Andrew has other thoughts as well, for he feels quite bitter that Milo “stole” Maggie. And that’s where I’ll stop my plot synopsis. Sleuth takes so many twists and turns that it wouldn’t be fair to reveal any more of them.

When confronted with remakes, I think there are only two ways you can avoid comparisons with original films. You can take the remake on its own merits if you never saw the first version or if you watched it so long ago that you don’t remember the predecessor well.

For me, neither contingency applied in terms of Sleuth. I did see the 1972 original, and it was recently enough to leave an impression on me. I can’t say that I loved the flick, but I enjoyed it and thought it was a good effort.

Because of that, I felt the 2007 Sleuth had something to prove to make it worthwhile for me. Unfortunately, it never quite manages to become its own film. Oh, it differs from the original, so it doesn’t provide a slavish reworking of its predecessor. However, I don’t think the changes do anything to improve on the prior model, and I actively dislike some of them. For instance, this version comes with a lot of profanity. Curse words don’t offend me in the least, but they feel gratuitous and out of place here.

The casting comes across as problematic. That’s no slight on Law and Caine, of course, as both are excellent performers. However, I don’t know if they fit together well. There’s just not a lot of contrast between the two, as they kind of feel like the same guy simply out of different generations. Caine and Olivier offered a stark contrast, but Alfie 1960s and Alfie 2000s doesn’t create much tension.

I don’t know if the Dueling Alfies was intentional in any way; the participants claim that the line “what’s it all about?” wasn’t a knowing nod to that character. However, it is rather gimmicky to put Caine in the remake since he played in the original. Of course, he does a different role, but there’s not much real reason to place him in the 2007 version. Perhaps Caine would have been the choice even without his connection to the old flick, but I feel like he’s here mostly as stunt casting.

All of this doesn’t mean that the 2007 Sleuth fails to entertain. It’s still a clever story and it mostly keeps our attention across its brief running time. However, it just doesn’t live up to expectations or the standards set by the original flick. It’s just not as involving or potent as its predecessor, so it fails to live up to its legacy.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Sleuth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film came with a competent transfer but not one that excelled.

A few minor issues with sharpness transpired. A smattering of shots came across as a little soft and tentative, though those were in the minority. Though the movie’s design didn’t allow it to seem tremendously crisp, it displayed perfectly adequate delineation most of the time. I noticed no jagged edges, but I saw some light shimmering and a few minor edge haloes. Source flaws remained absent, as the flick came free from defects.

Sleuth came with a very subdued palette. Icy blues dominated, and a few other earthy tones made up the majority of the other colors, though some brighter lighting appeared during some shots. The hues were fine within the design constraints of the film, though I felt some of the brighter tones – like some purple lighting – could be a bit heavy. Blacks were reasonably dense and dark, while shadows demonstrated reasonable delineation. Nothing here seemed problematic, but I didn’t feel that the image deserved a grade above “B-“.

I gave similar consideration to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Sleuth. Given the movie’s limited cast and restricted setting, I didn’t expect fireworks from the soundfield. Indeed, the film provided mild atmosphere at best. Music formed the majority of the material from places other than the front center, though some ambient information popped up on the sides and in the rears. These instances were minor at best, so don’t anticipate much action on display here.

Audio quality was quite good, at least. Music showed nice range and vivacity, as the score was lively and full. Effects were also accurate and clear. They didn’t often show much ambition, of course, but they were good representations of the material and showed good life. Speech sounded concise and natural, with no edginess or other issues. The audio of Sleuth got a “B-“ due to its limited soundfield, but the sound was perfectly acceptable for this story.

When we head to the extras, the prime attraction comes from two separate audio commentaries. The first includes director Kenneth Branagh and actor Michael Caine. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They go over sets and production design, cinematography, comparisons with the original flick, script and story, performances and rehearsal, music, and a few other production topics.

While not a great conversation, the commentary proves reasonably enjoyable. The track sags at times and suffers from a bit too much happy talk. However, we get some nice insights into the film, and I especially like Caine’s notes about the original movie. This is a moderately above average piece.

For the second commentary, we get actor Jude Law all on his own. He offers another running, screen-specific discussion. Law chats about his approach to the character, working with the others, performance notes and various production issues.

Inevitably, Law repeats some material from the first commentary. He also falls silent a little more than I’d like, though not to a significant degree. Nonetheless, Law manages to hold his own during his chat. He gives us some interesting facts about his work, especially when he gets into his mid-film transformation; I like his remarks about makeup, costumes and other gimmicks. Law proves engaging and likable in this generally useful commentary.

Two featurettes follow. A Game of Cat and Mouse: Behind the Scenes of Sleuth lasts 15 minutes and provides movie clips, shots from the set and interviews. We hear from Branagh, Law, Caine, and screenwriter Harold Pinter. “Game” examines the remake’s path to the screen, the adaptation of the source material and what led the principals to the project, characters and performances, Branagh’s directorial style, production design and cinematography, and some closing thoughts.

After two commentaries, we’ve already learned a lot about Sleuth, and some of that information repeats here. Nonetheless, we get a few new notes, and the footage from the set helps. I especially like the rehearsal images and some other glimpses behind the scenes. This is a moderately fluffy but generally interesting show.

Next comes the two-minute and 34-second Inspector Black: Make-Up Secrets Revealed. It includes remarks from makeup artist Eileen Kastner-Delago. She tells us about all the components used to create the Black character. Despite its brevity, it provides a decent overview of the techniques. It helps that Kastner-Delago is super-gorgeous – she can talk about whatever she wants and I’ll listen!

The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Steep, Youth Without Youth and Blu-Ray. These also appear in the Previews area along with clips for Persepolis, The Jane Austen Book Club, Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains, Saawariya, Across the Universe, We Own the Night, My Kid Could Paint That, When Did You Last See Your Father?, Revolver and Slipstream. No trailer for Sleuth shows up here.

On its own, I think the 2007 Sleuth has its moments, but it can’t quite emerge from the shadow of the original film. That one proves much more entertaining and makes it tough for the remake to stand for itself. The DVD provides fairly average picture and audio along with a few reasonably interesting extras. This is an acceptable release for a moderately enjoyable movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7142 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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