June 10, 2023

Consistently surprising, thematically rich, and aided by an energetic central performance that elevates some of the slower bits, Enola Holmes 2 is the rare sequel that doesn’t take thebigger-is-better route. Instead, it doubles down on what made the first movie such a breath of pandemic-era fresh air in the first place.

Netflix probably knew that it had a hit on its hands when the first film dropped, promptly putting the sequel on the fast track. Sure, we’ll still probably get more Red Notice and Gray Man movies, but they feel more like an inevitable illness that comes with old age rather than an exciting Sunday plan that one looks forward to through the week.

Unlike the other Fleabag clones out there, Enola Holmes 2 gets its contemporary edge not from a punk rock soundtrack or random Gen Z dialogue. Instead, the movie’s timeliness is baked into the plot, which concerns a criminal conspiracy and a couple of whistleblowers out to expose it. But what’s most impressive about this nifty sequel is its single-minded clarity of consciousness. In that regard, it’s an awful lot like its plucky heroine.

Millie Bobby Brown is as radiant as ever as the titular teenage detective, who, after a series of professional setbacks, finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery. To her annoyance, she discovers that she, and not some moustache-twirling Earl, is the prime suspect. The plot thickens as the film goes along, of course, but boiled down to its essence, this is the story of a young girl, riddled with insecurity about being expendable, investigating the disappearance of another expendable young girl.

From the breakneck opening moments that basically function as a much-needed ‘previously-on’ recap, to its joyous third act, Enola Holmes 2 embraces its core themes with the ferocity of Eudoria Holmes on the verge of saying goodbye to her only daughter. A lesser film would’ve had some character announce its mission statement to the audience at regular intervals, because a lesser film would make the grave mistake of believing that its audience isn’t intelligent enough to keep up. But Enola Holmes expresses its themes of oppression, and seeking independence from it, via character and not plot contrivance.

Yes, it includes a scene in which a bunch of liberated young women stage a mass walkout, but it also includes a late reveal that is as good an act of misdirection as you could hope for in what is essentially a children’s film. I cannot spoil it here, but it involves the introduction of a popular character from Sherlock Holmes lore, which might have come across as trite pandering, but in the hands of writer Jack Thorne, feels consistent with the lowkey anger coursing through the film’s veins. That being said, keep ’em peeled for a mid-credits scene that actually provides fan service, but again, in a way that enriches the characters.

Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, he’s still the supporting presence in this film that he was in the last one, although both his relationship with his younger sister and his individual personality is developed in meaningful ways. Henry Cavill’s performance exudes a warmth that you wouldn’t normally associate with the famously clinical character; this version of Holmes isn’t the sort who’d get excited by the arrival of a new villain, but treats his responsibility to bring them to justice almost like a burden. There’s a stoic, lone-wolf quality to Cavill’s Holmes that the movie acknowledges and attempts to cure. Cynicism isn’t something that you could accuse either of these films of.

The last third of Enola Holmes 2 is a pure joy to watch, despite director Harry Bradbeer’s haphazard handling of the action showdown (when he briefly forgets that Sherlock is also around because he was scheming to shine the spotlight on Enola instead). This is when the central mystery is resolved with the satisfying thud of a book finished in one sitting, and also when the movie gleefully unmasks the main villain.

Both Cavill and Brown have spent the majority of their careers dawdling in franchises. This isn’t ideal, but that’s the sad reality of stardom these days. Unless, of course, you’re Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s heartening, however, to see that amid the vast dystopia of the DCEU and the MonsterVerse, The Witcher and Stranger Things, there is at least one series that doesn’t reek of whatever it is that the Russo brothers believe is filmmaking. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts, because it isn’t hard to deduce where it’s all headed.

Enola Holmes 2
Director – Harry Bradbeer
Cast – Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helene Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, David Thewlis, Susie Wokoma, Adeel Akhtar
Rating – 4/5

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