Recommended Chapters: “Option C”, and “Behind the Moving Curtain”
• In “Option C”, Beck meets Mariana (Rosario Dawson), who informs him that in Brazil “Brazil Nuts” are called simply “nuts,” then tracks down Travis, and finally engages is a full-on bar room brawl with Hatcher’s hired thugs. Notice the realism of small details—billiard balls clicking against one another on an off screen pool table, snippets of conversation and Brazilian music, the clink of glassware, etc. Then, note the expansive, over-the-top dynamics of the fight scene, where—after Beck has performed heroically—Hatcher drily and sardonically says just one word: “Wow.”
• “Behind the Moving Curtain” features one of the best-recorded surround soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. Travis, Mariana, and Beck team up to search for a priceless ancient artifact that is a medium sized figurine of a cat that is cast in solid gold and is called simply the “Gato.” One of the main historical clues is that the Gato has been hidden “Behind the Moving Curtain,” which Travis correctly deduces is a waterfall. To push their search forward, the team swims beneath the waterfall to surface in an underground chamber that leads to a chamber whose roof is comprised of giant boulders suspended on frail looking wooden beams. At the back of the chamber, and blocked from access by the beams, is the Gato.
Travis determines that the chamber is a deadly puzzle designed to thwart would-be thieves. The only way to get to the Gato is to remove some of the support beams, but to do so in a way that does not bring the roof down. As Travis studies the floor, he realizes that carved stone tiles hold the key to the puzzle; only those beams resting on tiles marked in the shape of a cat can be safely removed (and then only temporarily). As Travis works his way toward the back of the chamber, we can hear a breeze blowing through the cave, the creaking and cracking of the centuries-old timbers, and the terrifying sound of Travis accidentally dislodging a beam or two that ought not to have been moved (so that Beck is forced to grasp the beams and—by brute force—to help keep the roof from collapsing). Eventually, Travis seizes the Gato and the team escapes in the nick of time, just before the roof caves in.
The scene in the chamber is terrifically enveloping and realistic, so that when beams in the back of the room creak and pop, it’s not uncommon to see movie watchers flinch involuntarily and crane their necks to look in the direction of breaking beams that, of course, aren’t really there. This, folks, is surround sound vividness at its best.
9. Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law star as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in this Guy Ritchie-directed action/adventure/mystery drama.
Recommended Chapters (untitled in this film): Chapters 4, 12, 13, 20 and 21.
• More than many actors who have portrayed the famous Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. captures both the cerebral and decidedly raffish aspects of Holmes, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Chapter 4. The Chapter begins with Holmes doing battle in, of all things, a bare-fisted prizefight where he is pitted against a much larger combatant. For a time, things don’t look good for Holmes, as he finds himself knocked to the ground by a massive blow, when is temporarily distracted by seeing the handkerchief of his ex-lover Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). Quickly regrouping, Holmes strategizes a complicated counterattack with almost surgical precision, and then executes in. Note how the sound designer supplies sonic cues that seem to slow down time as Holmes thinks through his attack plan, and then reverses course to supply further cues that real-time has been restored as Holmes dispatches his opponent in what seems like the blink of an eye.
• Chapter 12 and 13 show Holmes and Watson as quintessential men of action, with a soundtrack segment that mines a fine showcase piece. In Chapter 12, Holmes and Watson are scouting a laboratory for clues to help solve the mystery of Lord Blackwood’s mysterious “resurrection” when arsonists and a giant French muscleman named Dredger arrive on the scene intent on burning down the lab, destroying all evidence, and eliminating all witnesses. The soundtrack for the ensuing fight scene is rich in swirling details, including—especially—the strange electrical wand with which, quite by accident at first, Holmes bests the giant Dredger.