Today: June 11, 2024

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

It’s 1891. Anarchists bombs are going off all over Europe, aristocrats,

1891. Anarchists bombs are going
off all over Europe, aristocrats, business moguls and opium kings alike are
being murdered while storm clouds gather on the horizon.
A war, a world war – the first – looks
inevitable and only troubled genius and master of disguise Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr), the world’s only
consulting detective, suspects a grander game is afoot.

Holmes sees the design of his fiendish
nemesis Professor James Moriarty (Jared
), the man he dubs “the Napoleon of crime,” behind the wave of
bombings and assassinations and only Gypsy fortune teller Sim (Noomi Rapace) may hold the vital piece
of evidence that will allow Holmes and friend and colleague Dr John Watson (Jude Law) to expose the arch-criminal.

The only problem is Watson’s days of
adventuring are over; all he wants to do is marry his fiancé Mary (Kelly Reilly), honeymoon in Brighton
and live happily ever after.
Moriarty however sees Watson and Mary as necessary collateral damage,
dispatching an army of assassins to ruin their honeymoon by murdering
them. Holmes and Watson are forced
to embark on one last great adventure to avert a war and save Europe from
catastrophe. But for Holmes and
Moriarty destiny awaits them in a climactic confrontation at the Reichenbach

More or less picking up where the first
film left off, Sherlock Holmes: A Game
of Shadows
hits the ground running with an almost Bondian breathless
opening in which Holmes saves a crowded auction room from a bomb, flirts with
the duplicitous Irene Adler (Rachel
returning, briefly, from
the first film) and takes on four of Moriarty’s hired thugs before the
Professor himself is introduced in a crowded restaurant where he outsmarts
Irene, engineering her murder by poisoning while across town Holmes, awaiting
the pleasure of her company for dinner, assumes he’s been stood up. It’s a bold, frenetic sequence and
Adler’s murder is subtle, brutally effective and introduces Moriarty as
economically as possible.

purists will scoff that the film bears
little resemblance to their beloved detective but who cares? Ritchie
isn’t making a pure Sherlock Holmes film here; he’s making a Bond movie, a
superhero flick. In some ways
Holmes was the prototype superhero; an independently wealthy (did he ever get
paid for a case?), eccentric genius, a crime-fighter with more demons than you
can shake a stick at (the disguises, the drug addictions).

Like the first film, this second
installment is an old-fashioned Boy’s Own adventure, the heroes battling
indestructible Cossacks, dodging explosions, shooting it out with Moriarty’s
private army and tearing around Europe trying to stop a war. But the joy of the film isn’t the
film’s many edge-of-the-seat action sequences or the intricacy of Ritchie’s
steampunk Victorian world but the bromance between Holmes and Watson. Downey JR and Law’s chemistry is
electric, each complementing the other’s strengths; Law’s weary straight man
just about tempering the excesses of Downey Jr’s arrogant, nakedly raw Holmes,
a genius driven by his demons, their rat-a-tat banter illustrating the love and
frustration of their relationship.
Harris is chilling and physical imposing as Holmes’ greatest enemy
Moriarty, their scenes together tense and controlled, violence bubbling under
the surface, Stephen Fry’s
gloriously amusing as Holmes’ smarter, older brother Mycroft while McAdam is
charming and seductive in her all too brief cameo as Holmes’s former love
interest. Only Noomi Rapace, fresh
from her success as The Girl Who Knows
How to Use Her IPhone
fails to make an impression, lost in her role as a
knife-throwing Gypsy fortuneteller.
She has little to do and seems to be along simply to act as Holmes and
Watson’s beard.

While the emphasis may be on the action
rather than the detection, Ritchie’s film goes some way to banishing the
spectre of the Beeb’s recent updated take on Holmes (“Quick Holmes, to the App
store,”) and enjoys playing around with the Holmesian staples (the mastery of
disguise, the Reichanbach) while never pausing long enough to allow the
audience to blow holes in the plot.
Bigger, brasher and more fun than the first movie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows takes itself just seriously
enough to satisfy it’s Christmas audience.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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