Sleuth (2007)

Not since Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has the screen been graced with such a duel between acting talents, even from the first version of Sleuth where Michael Caine ironically plays his opposing lead now. The younger man, played splendidly by the dynamic Jude Law gives marvelous depth to his performance as the prize in a game he plays with his wealthy elder, moves from possession of a woman to quite something else. As the game progresses, it becomes clear the woman in question is more a point marker than an object of affection by either man. Until the game itself declines to more penetrating aspects into the two.

Something closely akin to the Albee play but not found in the script of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and only emerging at least in this film is that of Pinter’s interpretation. Well worth, however, the scrutiny demanded of the viewer to sort out of the spectacular delivery of lines and the duel of wits (so similar to that of acting skills displayed in showy English style) as the game played between the two develops unexpected turns and ends in the manner depicted.

A film of this type is drama, on stage bigger than life for just how actors interpret individual motives and emotions. Differences between the first version and this one example that beautifully. In the contrast especially we find Law’s own depth as an actor. It is impressive.

The script writing, by Harold Pinter, apprehends the young actor’s ability to do this and is masterful in exploiting it. The success in the myriad of emotions and alterations to motives (as the game changes) is consequence. Artistic merit is observed on an high level in such things as NOT allowing entry of the wife/woman in question. The import implied is that much more focusing on the game. That is, until the game becomes something else. Leading to a rejection of far more import than the loss (or gain) of a trophy wife.

Equally successful as a play, the interesting home of Andrew, the elder man, is an interesting but unnecessary element. These performances could have been equally compelling in a barn. In short, two amazing performance by two actors capable of taking a performance to the next level without overacting. Not a usually found virtue among English actors.

No nudity, just subtlety that would escape most youngsters. For adults, a highly recommended movie, especially those with a love for theater.

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