In 2009 director Guy Ritchie surprised us all by bringing the legendary personage, Sherlock Holmes — from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories — to life and at the same time making him intriguing and a unique take on the character with his eccentric tendencies.
“Sherlock Holmes” was a hit, largely in part to the amazing work from Robert Downey Jr. and while the characters were a great mixture of serious and comedic, the film lacked a certain something. It could have been that the film was teased as an action film when that was just a miniscule amount of the film, or that the perils in the film never seemed as devious as they were meant to. All involved are getting a second chance to wow us as “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” hit theaters this weekend.
The film picks up shortly after the conclusion of the previous case was concluded and we find Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) even more reclusive and manic as he hunts down clues to the plot of his most prodigious nemesis to date, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). Watson (Jude Law) is less involved in the crime fighting as he prepares for his upcoming nuptials to his fiancée Mary (Kelly Reilly) and this is causing some distress between the friends. When Sherlock begins to unravel a plot that could end modern civilization as we know it he interrupts the honeymooning Watson and guarantees him a peaceful marriage and life if he helps him solve this final case.
Moriarty is sick of Holmes interruptions in his diabolical plans so he begins to target those closest to him. Holmes and Watson come upon a gypsy named Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace) who is also being targeted for assignation by the maniacal Moriarty, so after saving her she joins their cause to stop this caitiff in his scheme to cause a global war and profit off of it. With a bunch of new allies in the gypsies the dynamic duo of Holmes and Watson is in the race against time to put a halt to their most intelligent opponents schedule in what is an intense game of cat and mouse. Can Holmes and Watson defeat the deleterious Professor when he is always one step ahead?
There have been so many iterations of Sherlock, and Robert Downey Jr. proved in the first film with his performance that this iconic literary character can be more then the stunningly brilliant detective, he can also be witty, charming and a bit neurotic as well. It is this key performance that sells the entire movie. In “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” we get that same persona, but even more over the top. A deeper look at the Holmes and Watson friend dynamic, there is a pure emotion when he thinks he has lost his best friend, no matter how manic he is, there is love there. A major part of the story is dealing with this conflict and we do see more of their relationship then we did in the first and Jude Law is just as funny –if not more than- in the first movie.
The relationship between Moriarty and Holmes is the second pivotal one in the film. The two have a certain respect for each other for their intelligence while equally despising the path the other has taken. They are literally different sides of the same astute coin. Jared Harris as Moriarty is far more menacing and disturbing then Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood, and the reason is that he never loses his composure and conducts himself in the highest of societal standards while doing the most dastardly deeds. He is calm, cool and collected the entire film, but you can see the spark of evil behind his eyes. He gives an amazing performance alongside Downey Jr. that complements each other while drawing out a competitive intensity.
The list of side characters new and familiar is comprehensive, ranging from Rachel McAdams returning as Irene Adler, Noomi Rapace as the new female lead Simza, the introduction of Holmes’s brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) and many others. McAdams role is very slight, but she gives a good performance in the small time she has onscreen. Stephen Fry’s Mycroft Holmes is bizarre and funny at the same time. He is very proper, while being a bit egotistic and odd himself. Last but not least is Noomi Rapace; I loved her characters spunk and determination while also having a bit of heart as well. I am glad that she wasn’t brought in as a replacement love interest, but an ally. Her interaction between Watson and Holmes is a voice of reason while also being a buffer when things get too intense between the two.
The film as a whole is as much an intellectual battle as it is an arms race full of action set-pieces, anarchist plots and lots of detective work. Director Guy Ritchie took the best parts of the original and built on them with more action, an aggressively dynamic style along with more revealing flashbacks of things that weren’t as they appeared to be. Yes there could have been a bit more character development, especially in the roles of the newcomers to the franchise, but the film delivers that which made “Sherlock Holmes” a hit with audiences and will be sure to entertain those who loved the first film. How can you not love a man who is a detective and a brainy martial arts expert with a colorful and boisterous zest for crime fighting?
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” — rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action as well as some drug content — is in theaters now.
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