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Film review - Sherlock: The Abominable Bride dazzling, frustrating

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the Victorian detective in this atmospheric ghost story, a cinematic version of an episode from BBC TV’s Sherlock. It’s mostly fun, but a third of the film will befuddle all but the series’ keenest fans

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 January, 2016, 6:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 January, 2016, 6:45pm

The BBC’s brilliantly realised Sherlock, an updated TV take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved Victorian detective, has always cleaved to the spirit of the original stories rather than the letter.

Played with career-making charisma by Benedict Cumberbatch, with Hobbit star Martin Freeman offering staunch support as Dr Watson, Holmes has survived falling from great heights (in Doyle’s The Final Problem) and marauding dogs (in The Hound Of The Baskervilles), but most of all he’s survived modernisation. Whatever series creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat do next, they should be congratulated for, like their hero, making a seemingly impossible task look easy.

In Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, Gatiss and Moffat break new ground, venturing into both the past and the cinema. For an hour, we’re treated to an atmospheric ghost story, concerning the vengeful spirit of suicidal bride Mrs Ricoletti (Natasha O’Keeffe) who threatens Sir Eustace Carmichael (Tim McInnerny). Thick with mist-shrouded Victoriana and Dickensian grotesquery, it’s devilishly good fun, with fantastic performances from the regular cast and lots of witty post-modern flourishes.

Regrettably this is interspersed with 30 minutes of interseries bridge-building that will befuddle all but the keenest viewers. Flitting in and out of Holmes’ fevered drug dreams, these modern-day sequences are expertly directed by Douglas Mackinnon, but detract from the purity of the exercise.

As a stand-alone episode, The Abominable Bride is both dazzling and frustrating; but as a taster for series four, it’s a reminder that Sherlock will always be appointment TV, whatever size screen you watch it on.

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride opens on January 2