ST. LOUIS — Did you know that Sherlock Holmes had a sister? Did you know she may be smarter than him?!?
The new Netflix delight, "Enola Holmes," introduces movie audiences to the aspiring detective, the younger sibling to both the more famous and earnest Sherlock (Henry Cavill), as well as the cunning and mean Mycroft (Sam Claflin). I don't think we'll ever get enough of this fierce young lady, played with a heavy dose of heart and skill by Millie Bobby Brown, whom fans of "Stranger Things" will know as Eleven, the otherworldly being who barely speaks.
Thankfully here, Brown has a lot of talking to do and a movie to shoulder at the same time. Cavill and Claflin, along with every other part of the fine ensemble cast, follow her lead here, with director Harry Bradbeer keeping all the focus on Brown's unstoppable heroine. When Enola's beloved mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), goes missing, Enola must put on her detective hat and figure out what happened. When she gets out on the road and runs into a young man on a train named Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge)-who may or may not be the subject of a dangerous conspiracy-her caseload grows exponentially. With both her brothers on her trail, each carrying different forms of intent for finding Enola, she has to find her mother and save a young man.
There's more to the tale of course, but I am not going to tell you about it. That's for my eyes to know and yours to go seek out. I can tell you the film presents a sweepingly epic look, reminding one of Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock" films with Robert Downey Jr., but the aesthetic here is built completely for Brown. The only worry I went into the film with was hoping the young woman whose name gave the film its title would get the lion's share of screen time, and my wish was granted. She's in nearly every scene of the film, which delivered the audience two different rewards. I felt like we got to know Enola and Millie at the same time, seeing what both of them are capable of.
The young crime-fighter has a life full of cases and justice to chase down, but the actress proves that she has the chops, both acting and being a true star, to carry a big film. Netflix doesn't throw chump change at their movies either, so consider this the late summer/early fall tentpole film for the streaming network. It's a big hit for the simple fact that we buy into and adore Brown's Enola from the very first scene. With her natural English accent, extra long brown hair, and ability to change her disguise, Brown makes for an outstanding and believable young heroine. Someone little girls can look up to and enjoy without over watch.
That doesn't discount the rest of the stellar cast's contributions. Cavill may look like a Sherlock who never leaves the gym, but it allows the actor to once again dig into a supporting role and give it something different. We've never seen Holmes look like this, but Cavill's dashing wit and charm make it easy to digest by the middle of the film. Claflin seems to be playing conniving or straight-up evil antagonists these days, so Mycroft is right up his alley. When it comes to look and speaking manner, he nails all the reasons audiences will hate this man. If Sherlock is the brother who lifts her spirits up and wants the best for Enola, Mycroft simply wants to crush all of it.
This may be the best work I've seen Carter pull off, and that's saying something. While her resume is often attached to two things-her ex-husband Tim Burton and "Fight Club"-Carter is capable of more and proves it here. In a role that doesn't involve a lot of dialogue or many extended scenes, Carter infuses the matriarch of the Holmes household with an effortless grace and sharpness. She looms over the entire film, pushing Enola and reminding her why it's important to find her own way. Whether that's teaching a very young Enola how to properly fight or filling her head with important literature, Eudoria is determined to make her daughter strong. In a limited role that was vital to the film, Carter nailed it.
The script can be gleefully imperious at times, but the overall makeup of the story carries a rousing sentiment that pushes all the uneven moments and slightly overlong running time through to the finish line. Jack Thorne, adapting a Nancy Springer-written Holmes novel, jams the movie full of long-winded riddles and speeches, separated by action sequences that are as good-looking as they are well shot.
"Enola Holmes" should be the start of a long film series for Brown, who proves that she is much more than a silent monster killer. This film leans on her in a way no other piece of work she has ever done to this point. She has to be strong, very cunning, and entertaining to us. And yes, she even makes the tired "talking to the audience" screenplay trick work fairly well.
It's a good film and well done, but ten years from now, it will be the official launching point of Millie Bobby Brown's career. Mark it down. She has arrived!