Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Review
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 12.16.2011
Robert Downey Jr. is back as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows! Is the sequel as good as the original or does it fail to hold water? 411's Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review!
Directed By: Guy Ritchie Written By: Kieran and Michele Mulroney; Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Runtime: 128 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13.
Sherlock Holmes - Robert Downey, Jr. John Watson - Jude Law Professor James Moriarty - Jared Harris Madame Sim - Noomi Rapace Mycroft Holmes - Stephen Fry Mary Watson - Kelly Reilly Sebastien Moran - Paul Anderson Irene Adler - Rachel McAdams Mrs. Hudson - Geraldine James Inspector Lestrade - Eddie Marsan Constable Clark - William Houston Claude Ravache - Thierry Neuvic
In a follow-up to the 2009 tent-pole smash hit, Sherlock Holmes, actors Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law are back as the classic duo of the world’s greatest consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his partner/sidekick/assistant/companion/hetero-lifemate, Dr. John Watson. However this time, Holmes antagonistic foil is not that of an unintelligent poseur in that of Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong in the previous movie). Holmes is now forced to match wits and wills against his greatest adversary, the sinister Professor James Moriarty (Harris).
Moriarty stayed in the shadows in the last movie, stealing a wireless electric detonator that Lord Blackwood had planned on using to trigger a chemical weapon to wipe out Parliament and take over the country. In the seemingly short amount of time since the end of the previous movie, Holmes has been tracking Moriarty’s movements and believes the man who by day is a venerable Cambridge professor, writer, and even a part-time state advisor to the prime minister. Watson of course has other things on his mind, having moved on from the detective life due to his pending marriage to his soon to be wife, Mary (Reilly). After an exchange and bomb plot involving Irene Adler (McAdams) that is foiled by Holmes, Moriarty decides it is time to extinguish Holmes for good and has no problems targeting Holmes friends and loved ones as well. After Moriarty’s minions target Watson and Mary in an exhilarating train shootout sequence, Watson and Holmes agree to solve this last case and stopping Moriarty before their partnership officially ends.
The main attraction for the entire movie is without a doubt Harris as Moriarty. Ritchie did well in casting a type like Harris in the role instead of a big star the role had been rumored to go to before such as a Russell Crowe or Brad Pitt type. Harris’ selection as the character without a doubt makes up for the lack of the revelation of the great villain’s face at the end of the first movie. Harris’ interpretation of the character is delicious and he really fleshes out the role with some very subtle physical movements from the way he blows on his signature after he gives Holmes an autograph to the way he keeps all his seething emotions simmering under the surface but never showing his true hand. Harris makes Moriarty Holmes’ true intellectual equal but even more dangerous than Holmes as there is no rule Moriarty is not willing to break in order to win.
Also new but equally great to the cast is that of the great detective’s brother, Mycroft Holmes, perfectly cast with Stephen Fry. I thoroughly enjoyed Fry’s Mycroft whenever he was on screen. Fry and Downey really capture a truly brotherly spirit in their onscreen relationship. There is of course a sense of sibling rivalry and competitive nature, but also that familial bond and that they do care for each other in their own way. Fry is like Sherlock in that he seems to be just as clever but a little more straight laced and practical than Downey’s manic and at times wild interpretation of the character.
In terms of Ritchie’s style, this film is even more of a Guy Ritchie film than the first one. However it is a style that meshes well with this being of the steampunk, action adventure genre variety. I love steampunk and Ritchie with his personal touches really makes it his own and makes it work. A Game of Shadows is quite simply, Guy Ritchie Unleashed or Guy Ritchie dialed up to 11. But it’s not at all bad. The movie has a strong frenetic pace and style, but the Mulroney’s give plenty of substance ratcheted up by the action and stylish Ritchie visuals. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not the Victorian era The Usual Suspects. But the filmmakers never really seem to insult my intelligence with the story, and the plot keeps you on your toes with plenty of nice turns. The steampunk essence comes out very well through Moriarty’s plot he’s stockpiling extremely modern weapons and arms. But for what purpose?
The interplay and chemistry between the cast members is truly impeccable. With Moriarty, the story finally has a villain that is more than a match for Holmes. In these movies, we are allowed to see Holmes physicality and fighting style. Moriarty is proven to be just as much Holmes’ equal physically as he is mentally and intellectually. The supporting cast are all game, though I was not too impressed by Rapace as Sim, especially since I much prefer McAdams as Adler. If there is one critique, Eddie Marsan’s Inspector Lestrade is not in the movie nearly enough.
The movie really gives you a sense of putting the audience in Holmes’ world and how he sees it. Downey simply and subtlety sums it up at one point when attempting to locate an assassin and he is asked what he sees by Sim. “Everything,” Holmes puts it. And thus you truly understand Holmes in this scene, a man at many times isolated and out of place in the world but still constantly fighting for it.
The 411: A Game of Shadows as a sequel completely lives up to the original. The movie really opens up the world of the mythos by showcasing characters I really wanted to see in the first film especially Mycroft and Moriarty who are portrayed excellently by Stephen Fry and Jared Harris respectively. Ritchie's style is played much bigger here, but works with the steampunk style and setting of this franchise.