Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
Critics didn’t particularly like Guy Ritchie’s first re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s lovingly cerebral detective, despite the able performances of Robert Downey Jr. in the titular role and Jude Law as sidekick Watson. But that didn’t stop it from becoming a popular favorite at the box office. The sequel - subtitled "A Game of Shadows" - is equally affable, pitting Holmes against his most famous adversary, Professor James Moriarty. Ritchie’s stylistic aplomb - featuring monochromatic scenery, overbearing explosions, action sequences and the repetitive use of quick-slow motion to emulate Holmes’ rapid-fire logic - remains at the fore, but the addition of a more sinister antagonist and some fine British acting makes of this sequel an even more good time.
The story of this film picks up quickly from the denouement of its predecessor; Holmes (Downey Jr.), still smitten with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), is tracking a series of seemingly random European bombings targeting largely political figures. Ultimately it’s clear to Holmes that the perpetrator is none other than Moriarty (Jared Harris), and given their increasingly overt aggression towards each other, it’s not long before Moriarty involves the otherwise-engaged (literally) Watson (Law), whose impending wedding is... well, put slightly off track (again, literally). With the daring duo back in cahoots to decipher Moriarty’s true intents, the game is, as they say, afoot - but this time, against the chameleon Professor whose evil nature matches his powerful intellect.
The result is pure cinematic delight - at least, to anyone who enjoys British humor, mysteries, fast cutting and the pas de deux of Downey Jr. and Law. The film alternates effectively between ribald tongue-in-cheek humor, helped ably by a portrayal of Holmes’ brother by Stephen Fry, and convincing menace, most effectively felt during scenes wherein Holmes matches wits (and threats) with Moriarty. Ritchie keeps the pace high, which makes of the plot a chaotic, often confusing, jumble of events; this may seem unkind, but it has the distinct advantage of keeping even the most seasoned of moviegoers on their toes. And the film’s visual sizzle is both unique and highly innovative - in one sequence depicting a wooded firefight, Ritchie’s use of quick-slow presents as one of film’s most memorable - and suspenseful - action sequences.
Of course, these are precisely the traits that tend to most enrage lovers of Doyle’s original stories, which featured a more studious, less flippant Sherlock Holmes. If that’s you, there’s no point in shelling out to see if you like this flick better than the first; you won’t.
Downey Jr. and Law ride through with panache, as you’d expect; but Jared Harris offers up a Moriarty that’s so sinister he nearly steals the picture. The one unfortunate addition is Noomi Rapace (you’re remember her from Sweden’s version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), whose exotic look and superb acting is largely wasted on a character who lacks progression, even basic interest.
Ultimately - and despite its tremulous values as a participant in meaningful cinematic discourse - "A Game of Shadows" is every bit as sassy, charming, and enjoyable as the first film in this series, while providing a ride with even more thrills and chills. As such, I found it to be the most enjoyable movie of the season thus far.