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Sleuth (2007) Dir Kenneth Branagh, Screenplay By Harold Pinter

An ageing writer played by Michael Caine engages in a battle of wits with a young actor (Jude Law) who has stolen his wife’s heart away.


This piece originated as a stage play for two actors by Anthony Shaffer (The Wicker Man) and was adapted for the screen by the genius that is Harold Pinter, being committed to celluloid in 1972 with Caine as the young man and Laurence Olivier in the older role. This prompted Jude Law to harbour an ambition to play the elder role in thirty years time.


Caine is an under rated actor in my book, mainly due to the sheer weight of his back catalogue which contains more than it’s fair share of dross mostly done in the ‘Eighties which diluted the deserved plaudits for his role in the seminal British Gangster movie, Get Carter.


I have not seen the original and it would be instructional to compare the approach of the cast and director to this dark and bare play which is typical Pinter in it’s portrayal of the unpleasant side of the human psyche.


All the action takes place in on a country estate and only two actors are present, except for a glimpse of someone on a TV screen (Pinter) so I can understand why director Kenneth Branagh used a lot of unusual camera tricks and various different shot gambits, but I began to find it irritating and felt it was becoming the Branagh-Aren’t-I-Ever-So-Clever-Show?


There was little need, as Law and Caine produced an absolutely electric performance rendering the messing about totally pointless and quite patronising to the audience whom Ken thinks can’t possibly concentrate for 90 minutes.


But that’s my only gripe about an intelligently produced and acted piece of work.


Guess who said this of Sleuth?


  Whose idea was it to zap this raddled corpse with electrodes and make it jolt and reel and stagger around for 88 impossibly painful minutes?”


 Non other than our old friend Peter Bradshaw of the Gruniard. What a completely silly man.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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