Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ***
Directed by: Guy Ritchie.
Written by: Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney based on the characters by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Dr. John Watson), Noomi Rapace (Madam Simza Heron), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), Jared Harris (Professor James Moriarty), Stephen Fry (Mycroft Holmes), Paul Anderson (Colonel Sebastian Moran), Kelly Reilly (Mary Watson), Geraldine James (Mrs. Hudson), Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade).
The Sherlock Holmes I have in my head from when I read the novels and short stories as a child will never been the version that Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. put on screen. I prefer the cerebral Holmes of the story, instead of the action movie star presented in the movies, and I think my opinion of the first movie was probably adversely effected by this – it wasn’t MY Sherlock Holmes onscreen, so while I enjoyed the film, I never quite loved it. With my illusions of who I think Holmes should be shattered, I walked into the sequel with lower expectations, and found I enjoyed the film more than the original. It still isn’t a great film – and it still isn’t my Holmes – but it does what it does with skill and confidence, and wraps it all in an entertaining package.
Watson (Jude Law) is about to get married, which means he will be permanently abandoning Holmes, leaving the eccentric genius to be more fully himself – which is, of course, an obnoxious ass. Holmes needs Watson to rein him in a little bit – and even Holmes knows this. But such is life. Holmes is currently working on a case that everyone else thinks is insanity – a series of bombings across Europe, which appears to be the work of terrorist groups trying to start a world war, but Holmes believes it all traces back to Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), a brilliant math professor. No one believes him, but he is starting to get more evidence, and when, after the wedding, Moriarty tells Holmes to leave him along or else he’ll kill Watson and his new wife, Holmes feels he must stop it – and of course, Watson comes along for the ride. They are joined by Madam Simza (Noomi Rapace), a gypsy, whose brother has gone missing – and they fear will be used by Moriarty to carry out his next bomb blast.
Robert Downey Jr, is, like he was in the first film, the reason to see this. No, he may not be my idea of Holmes, but his version is hugely entertaining. Quick witted and funny, Downey grabs hold of the screen every time he’s on it, and you cannot wait to see what he’ll do next. Jude Law is the perfect straight man, keeping the film somewhat grounded, and playing off Downey wonderfully. I do wish they had given Noomi Rapace, so good in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a little more to do. And I certainly wish that Jared Harris had been given more room to manoeuvre as Moriarty – who was always Holmes greatest adversary. Yes, he’s smart here, but still, he cannot match wits with Holmes as much as he should.
The direction by Guy Ritchie is hyper-stylized, and for the most part it works – although I do wish he’d stop trying to compete with Zack Snyder over who can use the most needless slow motion shots in any given movie. Ritchie will probably never develop into the great filmmaker his first two films (Lock, Stop and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) suggested he may turn into, but at least he’s not being as pretentious as some of his later films have been. He may never turn into England’s Quentin Tarantino, but settling for being England’s Robert Rodriguez isn’t all bad.
In short, while Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is far from a great film, it is superior entertainment. I do wish someone would more faithful version of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories again, but for now, these versions will do.