Out of all the hundreds of Netflix films, Enola Holmes feels the most like it belongs on the small screen. Its recreation of Victorian London – all music halls and grand saloons – looks a bit soundstagey; its sprawling cityscape suffers from an overload of CGI.
But for an evening in, it’s reliable entertainment. That’s thanks mainly to Stranger Things’ charismatic Millie Bobby Brown, whose charming, brilliant and surprisingly fighty sleuth steps out from the shadows of her more famous brother, Sherlock (Henry Cavill), in a sparky story of young feminists socking it to corrupt 19th century gents and bent coppers.
The real-life Matchgirls’ strike of 1888 forms a historic backdrop for a sequel handled with pacy verve and winky fourth wall breaking by Enola Holmes director Harry Bradbeer. A sweatshop match factory where the workers are dying of typhus, and from which one girl has gone missing, is the centrifuge around which its swirl of clues, red herrings and McGuffins orbits. All fly several miles over gormless Inspector Lestrade’s head (Adeel Akhtar).
Several games are afoot at once this time, with Enola tracking down the missing girl and Sherlock on the trail of a financial conspiracy, and Jack Thorne’s script juggles them nicely.
The dynamic between the conceited but caring Sherlock and the headstrong Enola is especially fun, with the film most alive when Brown and Cavill are on screen together. Helena Bonham Carter adds a helter-skelter energy as their mum and David Thewlis pops up to provide some panto villainy.
The result is a satisfyingly intricate, peppy addition to a year of whodunits (See How They Run, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Knives Out 2, et al). If it happens, hopefully ‘Enola Holmes 3’s sleuthing gets a bit more cinematic.
In UK cinemas now. Streaming on Netflix Nov 4.