Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the second installment in the franchise from Guy Ritchie, continues the 2011 trend of having a colon in your film title. Seriously. 2011 is like the year of the colon. X-Men: First Class, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Captain America: The First Avenger, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, and so on.
But more importantly, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is all kinds of good. Holmes take a step away from being a total misanthrope and the cast does a very fine job in a fairly complex storyline and some excellent production value.
Here’s a preview:
Released December 16, 2011
Written by Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney (and Arthur Conan Doyle)
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry, and Kelly Reilly.
* * * *
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a complicated tale. You have a bombing, a poisoning, anarchists, a political summit, a huge weapon manufacturer, and a brilliantly evil antagonist who appears to be running the entire show.
This installment in the franchise begins with one of Holmes’ (Downey Jr.) signature disguises, picking up where the last film left off. Holmes’ heart seems to be nearly won by Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) and he and she have a great, snappy, chemistry-laden scene at the beginning of the show.
Then something happens and Holmes understands that Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris, no relation to this writer) is very much his match. Holmes needs his friend, Henry Watson’s, help. Jude Law plays the foil very well again, by the way. The problem is that Watson is about to get married and he has a life outside of Holmes’ self-involved world, no matter how wonderful the detective’s urban camouflage might be.
Watson gets married and Moriarty threatens Holmes with harm to Watson and his new wife, played with intelligence and fierceness by Kelly Reilly. Holmes and Watson end up chasing down Moriarty’s plot while Mary Watson also plays a part in trying to take the bad guy down. We also meet Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry), played fearlessly and with some droll humor.
Add to all this some gypsies, anarchists, and some very fine deduction.
In any case, the film is fairly complex. There are plenty of slow-motion scenes and Holmes’ thought-process is illustrated well, again. The action is fun and period, and the climactic scene is quite unexpected, but nicely motivated.
All in all, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows delivers an intelligent but followable plot, excellent performances, mighty fine production design, and all kinds of creative action. There is also plenty of humor and the chemistry between Law and Downey Jr. makes for a perfect heart to an entertaining film.
It’s not quite as fresh as the first one, and Holmes loses a little too much of his misanthropy and brilliance, but this film is nonetheless a fun ride. You will love Jared Harris as Moriarty. His voice and manner are perfect.
Content warning: plenty of fighting and other violence, some language, and some substance use.
Writing: 4.5 Acting: 4.5 Overall: 4.5
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