Caught Cameron’s speech about ‘character’ the other day and it sent me reeling, truly unable to decide if it was depressing or cheering. He was (or seemed) sincere: a consummate communicator, empathic, thoughtful, sensitive, ready to draw inspiration from passion and belief and from evidence and research. He seemed (or was) willing to discard the old, hateful, Tory rage and resentments, willing to take on the best of the new ‘liberal’ realities. He seemed like a decent bloke. And there wasn’t a word I disagreed with. Not a single Labour or Liberal politician has engaged me in that way for more than a decade. And I think- I know, after that speech- that he’s going to get in, Trojan horse for the old enmities and divisions and brutal lack of curiosity of a party that still worships Thatcher. I hope he means it all and I hope he finds a way to keep his stone-eyed, malevolent mates away from our schools and healthcare and culture: if he doesn’t, the paranoia and collective delusion and principle-vacuum of these last days of New Labour could feel like a golden age.
Always hated Guy Ritchie films: all bluster, empty flash and cartoon-brutal violence. As stomach-churningly unrealistic a portrayer of London gangster life as Richard Curtis is of its middle-class counterpart, Ritchie also had the temerity- him, an awkward, class-confused Englishman!- to find himself living with Madonna (for the official SAE stance on the former Mrs R, see here). So I knew this was going to be crap- superficially glittery-tricksy, noisy, self-consciously now. And it is all those things, but- disturbingly- it’s also beautiful to look at (the shots of a half-built Tower Bridge are breathtaking), seductively atmospheric, empathic and- in places- genuinely exciting. It’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is, not quite as funny, but it’s good: Robert Downey Jr is excellent- an agitated, agitating, neurotic, strung-out Holmes who Conan Doyle would recognise- and Jude Law understated and (remarkably) not remotely annoying. And for that, if for nothing else, we should praise Guy Ritchie.