Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reily
Release Date: December 16, 2011
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is back, and this time he is facing the greatest challenge of his life. His former partner, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) has moved on with his life as he prepares to wed Mary Watson (Kelly Reily). Holmes is left alone to let his mind wander between his latest inventions (which include “urban camouflage” and adrenalin shots) and ongoing investigation in crimes which nobody else even believes are even happening.
Though the story of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows continues roughly where the first film left off, an unknown amount of time has passed. In that time, Holmes has become increasingly erratic as he obsessively tracks what he believes is an international scheme by Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris).
Moriarty is world-renowned and well-respected professor of mathematics, but his real work lies in the shadows. His intelligence and smarmy confidence rivals that of Holmes, but unlike Holmes’ frequent disregard for the feelings of others, Moriarty completely lacks empathy of any kind. The evil yin to Holmes’ yang, Moriarty represents the ultimate opponent.
Though Holmes would prefer to take on Moriarty completely on his own, it quickly becomes evident that the professor sees the fact Holmes truly does care about other people as a weakness, and those closest to him are his pressure points. And so whether they like it or not, Watson and others are drawn into the game, a real-life game of chess where entire nations are pawns.
As the film’s title suggests, the real game between Holmes and Moriarty takes place without much notice from the rest of the world, with only a few people aware of what is really going on. Unlike the previous film’s villain, Moriarty’s entire plan is meticulously hidden, with every objective concealed and no room for loose ends.
With all the major players returning and Guy Ritchie once again sitting in the director’s chair, it should come as no surprise that Game of Shadows has a very similar look and feel to the original film. The quirky dialogue brings moments of levity through a tremendously action-packed film. If you found yourself laughing and biting your nails through the first film, there’s no doubt you will have a similar experience this time around.
Downey and Law bring their characters to life with the same enthusiasm as before, and Harris’ Moriarty makes for a much better villain. Though it was fun to see Holmes previously break the smoke and mirrors of superstition, it’s more satisfying to see a nemesis who relies simply on his own intellect rather than the fears of others.
Rachel McAdams makes a surprisingly brief appearance as Irene Adler. Given her prominence in the first film, her absence would have been more noticeable had it not been for the fantastic additions of Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry) and Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace). Mycroft and Sherlock are brothers and share a similar wit and attitude, and it’s doubtful anyone would have been better suited to play Mycroft than Fry. Rapace brings the same character elements that made her performance as Lisbeth Salander in the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo so outstanding to the character of Heron. A short-spoken women with tenacity and perseverance, Heron makes a great parter for Holmes and Watson without any gratuitous love-interest subplots.
It might be going too far to say that Game of Shadows is better than the original, but it is certainly its equal. Though the film trades much of the mystery for action, it is still a fun ride from start to finish.