Reappreciation Society: Sleuth

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Watching Sleuth is like watching two peacocks dancing around on the front lawn of a country estate on a balmy summer’s day, their feathers in full flow, gleaming and sparkling in the hot summer sun – with seemingly no end to their beauty and hauteur. These are two men at the peak of their powers and this is the perfect platform to show their skills.

Sleuth is a “two-hander” , an adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play of the same title by British playwright Anthony Shaffer. There haven’t been many films made with only two cast members that are as good as this. I am also positive that there never will be either.

Andrew Wykes (Laurence Olivier) learns that that Milo Tindle (Michael Caine) is having an affair with his wife Marguerite, Wyke invites him to his country manor house in Wiltshire, setting up a battle of wits with potentially deadly results.

Wyke invites Tindle to his home to reveal that he is aware that Tindle is having an affair with his wife. While on the surface he doesn’t seem very worried (as he has a mistress of his own) he  is concerned that Tindle, a struggling businessman, will be unable to maintain her in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed, and that she’ll leave him and return to Wyke. Thus Wyke suggests that Tindle steal some valuable jewellery and sell it in order to live happily with his wife. Meanwhile Wyke can claim the insurance in order to live happily with his mistress. Tindle agrees and the game begins – and a very twisty, turny game it becomes.

Olivier is a vivacious whirlwind of dialogue. His accents, voices and prose are reassuringly ubiquitous. He is majestic in the role as Andrew Wyke, a successful detective novelist who is unhappily married and delights in playing elaborate games. His every line is uttered with supreme skill and with an almost overwhelming flourish of class. It is as if every utterance comes stamped with the message “now this is acting“.

Caine may have his critics when it comes to his chosen profession (very unfairly in my view) – but there can be no doubt that he is punching his weight along side Olivier here – which is some achievement with Olivier on this form. Caine  is forceful and brooding, but with a placid, sensitive side and the incredible screen chemistry between the two leads is hypnotising at times.

There is a potent air of chaos throughout the film, from the music (by John Addison) to  the amazing production design by Ken Adam (of James Bond fame) which shows just how crazy Wyke’s mad house of games, noises and puzzles really is.

Much like a good book (or a good play in this case) – once you open the pages of Sleuth, you will not be able to put it down.

Originally posted 2013-03-14 11:14:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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