Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, is very much a film of two halves. The initial hour is filled with gunfights, explosions, and bullet time fist fights. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) unravel the sinister plans of Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) and proceed to deal with it in the idiom of Frank Martin, as director Guy Ritchie's pulls every visual trick he knows out of the bag. The pace is fast yet a fairly strong script and superb chemistry between central characters, makes this a cut above the usual PG-13 rated action fodder served to the masses at present. It is beneficial that the bulk of the original cast and crew returned for this sequel as it maintains a strong sense of continuity with it predecessor.
Inspector Lastrade (Eddie Marsan) is sidelined in this story and Holmes's love, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) is dispensed with quite early in the proceedings, leaving us with much more interaction between Holmes and Watson. A dynamic that is skewed by Watson's marriage, leading to an unconventional love triangle. Sadly, there are a few weaknesses in the finished film. Gypsy leader Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace) has a great introduction then is left somewhat under developed. Also, the disgraced Colonel and crack shot, Sebastian Moran is similarly vague. He also drops out of the film towards the end, providing a suitable antagonist for a third instalment.
But these issues notwithstanding, the second half, quickly shifts from action to the traditional game of intellectual cat and mouse between our hero and his arch nemesis. It is during these verbal confrontations that the more traditional elements of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work come through. The final battle via a game of chess on a balcony overlooking the Reichenbach falls, is ingenious and enthralling. Guy Ritchie's has certainly found the right mix between old school cerebral sleuthing and contemporary action styles. He also understands that the linchpin of these films is the relationship between leads and he handles this dynamic skilfully. Hans Zimmer's soundtrack once gain embellishes the film and avoids the usual musical clichés associated with this unique sub-genre.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is very entertaining holiday fare and is certainly not an inferior sequel. Twice now director Guy Ritchie has exceeded expectations and made amends for previous sins (need we list them?). Plus, it is always a pleasure to see genre stalwart, rent-a-German and purveyor of Ferrero Roche, Wolf Kahler back on the screen. On a parting note, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is quite surprisingly strong in content. It is interesting to see how Mr. Ritchie has carefully shot and choreographed the violence so as to secure a PG-13 rating/12 Certificate. I was quite surprised about one scene in which Sherlock Holmes is rather brutally interrogated. Although the unpleasantness is justified, viewers should be aware of this hard edge to the movie.