Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) PG-13, for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material. Dir: Guy Ritchie
This film is currently playing in theaters everywhere.
In this sequel to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, the titular hero played by Robert Downey Jr. and his longtime associate, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), take on their arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), with help of Holmes’ older brother Mycroft (Stephen Dry) and a gypsy named Sim (Noomi Rapace). The trail leads them outside of England, through France, and Switzerland as they discover a diabolical plan that would result in international disaster.
Guy Ritchie’s version of Sherlock Holmes certainly wouldn’t classify as my ideal interpretation of the character. With that said, I do enjoy his version. Yes, it’s played mostly for laughs, and Holmes’ character is more brawn than what I’m used to from the stories/novels. And, these movies have a plethora of explosions—very different from my general idea of the Victorian England atmosphere. Still, had Ritchie continued on with the whole deer hunter cap thing that the Holmes character had been associated with, that probably would’ve served more as pop culture baggage, and detrimental in allowing one to be reacquainted with the character as if for the first time (the second time, in this case). Generally, it plays against stereotype of the often-used two-dimensional interpretation of Holmes (like Santa Claus).
Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes is as we remember him from the previous film. So is Jude Law as Dr. John Watson. They are just as engaging as before, playing off each other with the usual sarcastic quips. Doyle’s version of the stories weren’t as sarcastic, certainly, and much of the loony playfulness shown here, if there were any, were mostly understated (if that). Jared Harris’ interpretation of Professor James Moriarty is different than what I’m used to as well—he doesn’t come off as creepy or villainous as Mark Strong from the first film, but it makes sense that Moriarty indeed comes off as a character people actually like and respect, being a brilliant professor and all. Harris does an admirable job of not playing to a stereotype of a villain (someone like the tried-and-true Anthony Hopkins may come to mind, but that’d be overdoing it, and wouldn’t be as “novel”). Stephen Fry is a lot of fun as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes, who looks exactly as I would have envisioned him. Noomi Rapace (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) plays the gypsy Madam Simza Heron, who feels added on, but it works. Kelly Reilly plays Mary Watson, John Watson’s wife, with much-welcomed spunk.
As mentioned, there are plenty of action sequences, tons of fights, and gun battles, many of them involving machine guns and cannons. There are times when the movie feels much like a segment of a war movie. In these scenes, Ritchie uses the sped-up and slowed-down action style, which, while sometimes can feel repetitive, is perhaps just part of the director’s trademark (like it or leave it). The quick cuts and close-ups of scenes when Holmes is replaying a scene can be confusing at times, but I suppose that is what DVD is for. This is a different Holmes, after all. Compared to the first film, this version does tend to spend more time in the action department than brains, but like the first film, things all come together nicely where it counts.
The environment isn’t as colorful as the first film. Whether or not it’s due to the gloomy situation of Holmes meeting his archenemy who wants to kill him and people close to him, there is a noticeably gloomy feel to the look of the film as many scenes happen in dark places, and outdoor scenes have a chilly, wintery atmosphere.
Overall, this is yet another entertaining yarn from Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The first film perhaps felt more fresh (because it was), and this film continues on from where we left off. The whole, back-and-forth chess-play (both figuratively and literally) relationship between Moriarty and Holmes is intriguing. And, more than the story itself, I really enjoyed these characters and would love to see them again in yet another sequel. I am perhaps paying these films a great amount of compliment in saying that these movies make me want to re-read the books, whereas other film versions made me want to, well, wait for the film versions to come out.
My Rating: *** out of **** stars.