Cat & Mouse With Caine
Sunday Mirror, 18 November 2007
The stars: Michael Caine, Jude Law.
The story: Successful mystery writer Andrew Wyke (Caine) lives in a stark modern house on a country estate with a sophisticated surveillance system. He is visited by hairdresser Milo Tindle (Law), who tells Wyke he is having an affair with his wife.
Cue sexual jealousy and deadly games.
The verdict: This updating of the 1972 Joseph Mankiewicz film is deftly handled and cleverly witty, with Michael Caine and Jude Law going head-to-head as actors and both giving enjoyable, well-balanced performances.
The original script for this classic two-hander was by Anthony Schaffer (based on his own play), but this time it has been adapted by acclaimed playwright Harold Pinter, who has pruned the story so much that this movie doesn't even run 90 minutes when the original was a hefty two-and-a-half hours.
As directed by Kenneth Branagh, this "Sleuth" is certainly snappier, though there is still no getting away from the fact that the film is a dialogue-driven two-hander and lacks a bit of variety on screen. Both Caine and Law slip easily into their roles (remember, young Caine played Milo in the original film, which makes things all the more interesting) and Pinter has also layered in a few homo-erotic undertones to make things even more intriguing.
In truth, this "Sleuth" bears little resemblance to the original bar the characters and plot twists.
Where the old Wyke's house was rambling and traditional, here it's a modern, minimalist affair and a strange backdrop to the nasty games played out by both men. I actually missed the rambling nature of the original film (as well as the sight of Caine's Milo humiliated in a crazy clown suit) and if ever there was a case for wanting more and not less, the new "Sleuth" is it.
Jude Law, who took on another Caine classic in the recent Alfie update, has the charm and panache to more than hold his own, though you are increasingly transfixed by Caine's beautifully manipulative and malevolent performance, confirming what a wonderful actor he is in the right role.