Sleuth (2007)

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Sleuth (2007) Movie Poster Image
Intense cat-and-mouse thriller is for adults only.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 86 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The never-seen Maggie cuckolds Andrew and persuades Milo to see her husband. Cruelty rules the day, and both Andrew and Milo aim to humiliate the other. They do so by playing mental games, with the battles quickly turning violent.

Violence

Lots, though nothing gory. The main characters beat each other up quite brutally (and sometimes in close-up) and later brandish knives and guns (shots are fired). In one scene, Milo nearly strangles Andrew with a necklace. In many others, they threaten to kill each other. The ending is stunning in its cruelty.

Sex

No sex shown, but the acrimony between the two main characters stems from Andrew's wife leaving him for Milo. Later, sexual tension surfaces between the two men.

Language

Includes uses of "bulls--t," "prick" and "f--k."

Consumerism

Heavy emphasis on high-tech gadgets (though labels aren't easily identifiable). The remote control for them looks like an iPod Nano.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink whiskey and other hard liquor; in one painfully humiliating scene, Milo guzzles alcohol straight from the bottle.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this sleek, adult-oriented thriller tackles mature themes -- infidelity, violence, murder -- from the get-go. Swear words (including "f--k") and other inflammatory language are hurled like weapons; later, actual weapons (including guns and knives) are brandished. It's clear from the beginning that main characters Milo and Andrew aim to annihilate each other. Even older teens may find the film's brutality uncomfortable: This is no cartoonishly violent video game, but an ugly, down and dirty obliteration.

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What's the story?

Maggie, the movie's unseen seductress, propels two men -- her husband, novelist Andrew Wyke (Michael Caine), and her lover, sometime-actor Milo Tindle (Jude Law) -- to face off in the taut thriller SLEUTH. Based on a play by Anthony Shaffer (which was first turned into a movie in 1972 starring Caine) this remake penned by Nobel laureate Harold Pinter and directed by Kenneth Branagh examines what happens when Wyke summons Tindle to his country home for a tête-à-tête.

Is it any good?

Though they're ostensibly dueling over Maggie, it's the interplay between the two men that takes center stage, resulting in a a twisted, all-consuming, and violent battle for supremacy. It's physical, mental, and emotional, draining and exhilarating at the same time. Winner takes all -- though what "all" means is left up for debate. Caine and Law are a perfect match -- no surprise, given how ably Law stepped into Caine's shoes in 2005's Alfie. Caine taps a deep reservoir of rage not seen in his films in ages; Law, on the other hand, buries his pretty-boy image -- Milo is rough and desperate and, though handsome to behold, unafraid to be ugly (in one scene, he transforms "wit" into a loaded, almost shameful, word).

But just like Alfie, Sleuth is a little too slick. Andrew's estate is more cold than grand, and Branagh, by lingering too fondly on the high-tech edge of it all, threatens to snuff the rawness out of his movie. (He is, admittedly, excellent at setting tone; menace pervades the film throughout.) The first half-hour delights in the high-tech stuff -- the indoor elevator, the fancy lighting, the security cameras, the computer that controls it all -- so much that it almost seems like an ad for a modern-day "smart house." To heighten the face-off between its two main characters, Sleuth needed just a little more grit.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about infidelity. Can it truly drive people to extremes like the ones shown in this movie, or is that an exaggeration on Hollywood's part? Why is the media so fascinated by love gone awry? Why do you think the filmmakers choose not to show Maggie? Should they have? If you've seen the 1970s original, you can compare and contrast the two. How are they similar and different? Which do you like better? Why?

Movie details

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