American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"I am you. Prepared to do anything. Prepared to burn. Prepared to do what ordinary people won't do. You want me to shake hands with you in hell, I shall not disappoint you.... I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them." -- Sherlock Holmes to Moriarty in "The Reichenbach Fall" (2012)
In a seething contemporary metropolis, a private citizen gifted with extraordinary crime-fighting abilities, and motivated by his own private demons, enters into an unofficial liaison with the police, who put up with his form of vigilantism because... well, because he cracks cases and catches crooks. He's a great tabloid story, so the papers avidly display his distinctively costumed image on their front pages, building him up into a kind of superhuman figure. He fully trusts only one man, his live-in companion (no, not in that way!), frequent co-conspirator and closest advisor, who warns him that he may be getting too famous for his own good, becoming a target rather than a deterrent. He is ripe for a fall.
His city-wide celebrity attracts a nemesis, a criminal mastermind who is batshit crazy but also diabolically clever at complex planning. This villain is obsessed with his counterpart, whom he sees as an avenging "angel," his mirror self and his only worthy rival. Determined to destroy his better half, he plans a series of daring schemes, assisted by scores of shadowy henchmen eager to do his bidding, to take his archenemy's confidence and reputation down a few pegs.
And, of course, there are personal targets as well: family, friends, colleagues. Forget the signature headgear and flowing costume -- they won't do Our Hero any good now. The press turns on him, as do the police, tearing him down even faster than they they raised him up. Finally, he has to confront his adversary in a high place -- the only suitable location for a downfall -- and one or both of them will have to disappear into the shadows... at least for a while.
"The Reichenbach Fall," the third and final episode of BBC One's "Sherlock" (Series 2), airing Sunday on PBS Masterpiece Mystery in the United States, is a feature-length riff on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem." It also improves in every way -- cinematically, dramatically, emotionally, thematically -- on something else, but I can't think of what it is right now. I'll get back to you when I remember it... Right now it's time for a cliffhanger.
"It's what people do, don't they? Leave a note."
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