Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Notable Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry

The character of Sherlock Holmes has seen his fair share of film adaptions of varying quality (including the awesome "Great Mouse Detective!"), but never had it looked like what Guy Ritchie came up with for the 2009 version of the classic detective. He was borderline insane, yet a genius and the strong writing and performances of the film drove it to be one of the most unique and awesome films of the year. It didn't take some sort of psychic to see that it was going to be a formidable franchise with the talent involved and it wasn't long for the second film to arise to satiate our appetites in "A Game Of Shadows." Although the film still packs an intense mixture of chemistry, humor, action, and thoughtfulness to its place in a larger spectrum, this sophomore effort from Ritchie and company is a little long for its own good and loses some focus on what needed to be accomplished in its run time.

Sherlock Holmes (Downey Jr) is quite literally in the middle of the biggest case of his crazy career. His innate ability to remember details and put the pieces of a larger puzzle together has made him more paranoid than usual and his latest obsession seems to be transfixing the massive conspiracy to that of a criminal mastermind like Professor Moriarty (Harris). It's fate that brings Watson (Law) back into town for his wedding and Holmes uses the opportunity to set his own plan into motion. The game of chess between two of the world's greatest minds has begun...and each intend to make it personal for the other.

"Would you call this a Bro-mance, Holmes?"
The cast and crew of "Sherlock Holmes 2" make it really hard not to fall back in love with the entire concept. The chemistry is riveting. The films are funny, charming, high energy, and loaded with style. Ritchie really brings out his now quirky style for the character and the world that he occupies by littering the film with visual flair and plenty of detailing in the script. "A Game Of Shadows" can go a little far in this area as it bombards the viewer with almost too much style and its odd structuring (the former in the elongated slow motion run through the forest that sparks with unique style but runs thin quickly and the latter with some of the weird flashbacks with the train disguise as an example), but the end result is a massively entertaining film experience. Ritchie may not have found a tighter balance to his style, but its hard to deny that this sequel doesn't try its damnedest to be bigger and badder.

"That's a might fine beard you have, sir. And chalkboard."
Believe it or not, as the Ritchie fan boy I am, his direction is not the best part about "A Game Of Shadows." Like the first film, the highlight is the chemistry of how it all works together. The film spitters and spatters at moments as it tries to almost outsmart itself with red herrings and tangents, but none of that matters when the actors are doing their things onscreen. Downey Jr and Law could ably make a two hour movie of bickering  and it would have been just as entertaining as the film was. Not to mention the addition of the seething yet almost relatable Harris as Moriarty into the mix and the humorous Fry as Holmes' makes for a fun watch. My one complaint about the characters and casting is that once again, the female lead gets overlooked and underused. A great actress like Rapace and that's all you give her? Really?

Although my love for "A Game Of Shadows" wasn't as immense as my love for the first film, this still ranks as a personal favorite of mine and one that I will watch time and time against despite some of its gaping flaws. It's energy and casting simply make for a great film watching experience. Throw in a gloriously well shot and tense finale (taking the chess game literally with all kinds of pieces falling into place as our two rivals play out everything in their heads) and this second "Sherlock Holmes" film is a must see for anyone looking for a good way to kill a couple of hours. It's charming and highly recommended.

 Written By Matt Reifschneider


  1. Nice review. I actually preview this sequel to the first one. It's bigger and more ambitious. This of course leads to some flaws (the length, like you mentioned) but it's still very enjoyable. Also, as much as I love Jared Harris, I wish they picked someone else for Moriarty. Someone with the starpower of Downey Jr. who could go up against him more believably than a TV star.

  2. I found it to be one of the few sequels that was just as good as the original.

  3. This was seriously one of the best sequels I have ever seen. I do wish the villain had more of a presence but other than that it was on par with the first film.

  4. I definitely understand how much people loved this movie. To be honest, I love it too! Interesting that you would want someone with big A-list value for Moriarty as I really loved Harris in the role. Were you a supporter of the Brad Pitt as the villain rumors then?

  5. Although all of the freshness that was part of the first one is somewhat over-used, the flick is still a lot of fun with Downey Jr., Harris, and Law breathing life into each of their own characters. However, I was kind of disappointed by Noomi Rapace’s role as she just simply stands there and really doesn’t do anything. Regardless though, good review.

  6. I believe one of my complaints on the first film was I felt McAdams was underused. This one REALLY under uses Rapace! Fully agree Dan.