Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

by Alan Rapp on December 16, 2011

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  • IMDB: link

sherlock-holmes-game-of-shadows-posterI had lukewarm reaction to director Guy Ritchie‘s first attempt at bringing his version of Sherlock Holmes to the big screen. Although the sequel has many of the same problems (needless slow motion, a far too boyish Holmes, a focus on action over mystery, and, at times, a decidedly Hollywood feel) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a definite improvement.

Although the sequel still feels too much like a Guy Ritchie film (and not enough like a Sherlock Holmes tale), the director has reigned himself in the second time around. The mystery surrounding Moriarty (Jared Harris) works far better than the occult nonsense we had to endure in Sherlock Holmes.

On the eve of Watson’s (Jude Law) marriage to Mary (Kelly Reilly), Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Moriarty are locked in a deadly battle that involves weapons of mass destruction (at least for the end of the 19th Century) that can only end in tragedy on the water’s edge at Reichenbach Falls.

Reichenbach Falls (which looks far more like the lair of a James Bond villain than how it’s described in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tale) isn’t the only reference Holmes’ aficionados will recognize. We also get the return of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), and appearances by Sebastian Moran (Paul Anderson), Mrs. Hudson (Geraldine James), Detective Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), and Holmes’ brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry, who adds a little class to the proceedings – even during one of the film’s most groan worthy scenes). It’s also worth noting that much of the dialogue between Holmes and Moriarty’s first meeting is directly lifted from Doyle’s writing (although Moriarty’s final line is curiously absent).

Downey and Law’s interactions as Holmes and Watson carry the film even when the plot (which concerns weapons munitions, murder, gypsies and twists aplenty) gets out of hand. I’m pretty sure I didn’t need to see Downey in drag, or anywhere near this amount of slow motion bullets and explosions (there’s one extended slow motion sequence as the pair outrun bullets in a forest that’s enough to make me want to strangle Ritchie with my bare hands), but the film’s humor does help smooth several of the film’s rougher edges.


It is a shame that of all the women, Noomi Rapace, who is saddled with the least interesting role, is given the most screen time. Rapace is fine as the gypsy who helps Holmes and Watson on their case, but the two women (McAdams and Reilly) with something invested in both their safety and success aren’t given nearly as much to do this time around.

The script by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney does get more than a little convoluted (and requires Holmes to summarize events more than once), but it certainly succeeds in painting Moriarty as a worthy adversary and equal to Holmes. Here is a legitimate threat the world’s greatest detective may not be able to stop without paying a heavy price.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is far from a great Sherlock Holmes film (and nowhere near as good as the current BBC series of the consulting detective), but it turns out to be a pretty good Guy Ritchie movie. Personally I’d prefer a less hammy (and at times infantile) performance from Downey, but this version of Holmes certainly has charm. Law is used a little better this time around to help ground the story by reigning in Holmes (and Downey) when necessary as well as simply providing something on-screen Holmes cares about than just his puzzles and machinations.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michelle December 20, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I think maybe I enjoyed the first one more than you but it is true that is one is better. I loved all the Downey and Law scenes. Yes, even the one in drag. I may even go back and see this one a second time in the theater.


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