Dir. Guy Ritchie, US, 2011, 129 mins
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris
Review by Dan Collacott
Sequels are always a notoriously hazardous minefield for directors to negotiate, whether it’s beat for beat retreads like The Hangover 2 or follow ups that try to better everything that went before. This second take on Sherlock Holmes from Lock Stock director Guy Ritchie continues the narrative from the previous film and complements rather than expensively trumps what went before.
A Game of Shadows pits Holmes against his most famous nemesis, the highly respected and fiendish Professor James Moriarty. The genius and renowned English scholar is depicted with a dry, calculating, yet understated menace by the flame-haired Jared Harris (Mad Men). Holmes’s and Moriarty’s rivalry is played out like an impassioned meeting of minds and mutual respect, quietly reminiscent of the love and
chess-play of a certain Professor Xavier and Max Eisenhard. Holmes finds himself pitted against acrobatic Cossacks, heavily armed German soldiers, exploding train carriages, bombings, espionage, assassinations and pantomime villainy, as he tries to untangle the intricate web of anarchy that Moriarty has spun for him across Europe.
In the meantime Dr. Watson’s marriage and plans for a life free of swash buckling and capers are jeopardised by Moriarty’s refusal to remove Watson’s demise from his evil machinations. Thus Watson has once more to join forces with Holmes to stop the dastardly Moriarty from starting World War I, not to mention providing both a jumping off point for the public school boy banter and grounding for his partner’s burgeoning ego.
The terms bromance and buddy movie shouldn’t sit well within a period detective film with such class and gentlemanly poise, yet Jude Law’s Watson and Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes have such superb on screen chemistry that it is hard to play down the bromance of the piece. Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is thrown in to provide a bit of feminine balance to the boyish frolics and rollicking hi jinks. She plays gypsy Madam Simza Heron, whose anarchist brother has been caught up in Moriarty’s plans. Rapace is criminally underused throughout but it is still good to see her follow up her role as Lisbeth with what is hopefully only the first of many Hollywood films (fellow Girl actor Michael Nyqvist landed the role of the bad guy in the new Mission Impossible film). An inspired cameo by Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s eloquently barmy brother Mycroft Holmes adds an eccentric Britishness to the film. The frenetic camera work throws up a relentless cavalcade of clues, as we are privy to what Holmes sees and deduces at blistering pace. Nothing thrown up by the camera is extraneous and there’s even some slow motion bullet time thrown in.
Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows is a worthy sequel, with a warmth and familiarity that builds on the previous story and gives added depth and dimension to the characters. Downey Jr. was made for the lavish, manic and colourfully painted Holmes that Ritchie has created, while Law is the perfect foil for him, with his Watson providing a bit of balance and class to the impulsive roguish genius of Holmes. Somewhere within the escapades and dastardly plot twists lies the message that friendship is for life and that love can’t quell a man’s need for mischief and adventure but it isn’t rammed down the audience’s throat.
Despite a few recent turkeys, director Guy Ritchie has form when it comes to creating an intricate and fast paced plot that never tries acknowledge how clever it is or take itself too seriously and for that reason this reinvention of one Britain’s most loved fictional British characters couldn’t be in safer hands.
Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room… until now. Join the legendary detective in an action-packed mystery when “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” arrives onto Blu-ray Triple Play, DVD and Digital Download on 14th May.
The Blu-ray Triple Play and the DVD include an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the standard definition version of the film, which allows consumers to download the film to a PC or Mac plus instantly stream it from a digital cloud to many computers, tablets or smart phones.
Also available is the free “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” Movie App for IOS 4.2 or higher compatible devices, including iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app syncs with the Blu-ray disc to provide enhanced content and interactive features and allows users to switch between filmmaker video interviews and production photos for interactive breakdown of the action-packed scenes. In addition, the app controls playback of the film on your TV via the Blu-ray player and lets viewers jump to any point in the film using the Full Report feature. The “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” Movie App will be available through the Apple iTunes store on 31st May.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” will be available on Blu-ray Triple Play, featuring a hi-definition, a standard definition and a digital copy of the film, for £26.99.
BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Blu-ray Triple Play contains the following special features:
- Maximum Movie Mode: Inside the Mind of Sherlock Holmes – Hosted by Robert Downey, Jr. (TRT: 130:00) Including:
o Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry
o Holmes Without Borders
o Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed
o Holmes-a-vision on Steroids
o Sherlock Holmes: Under the Gypsy Spell
o Meet Mycroft Holmes
o Guy Ritchie’s Well-Oiled Machine
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows DVD contains the following special features:
- Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry
- Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed
- Holmes-a-vision on Steroids
Release date: 14th May 2012
Running time: 129 minutes
RRP: £19.99 (DVD) £26.99 (Blu-ray Triple Play)
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Urban Camouflage Challenge Begins in Birmingham. (close-upfilm.com)