Film Review: Sherlock Holmes – A Game Of Shadows
I enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes film by Guy Ritchie. If you didn’t, you’re not going to like the sequel any better. Many complained that the film missed the point and tone of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories completely and while the BBC’s Sherlock series may indeed be an oddly more faithful adaptation despite the updated setting, Guy Ritchie’s sequel to his 2009 film does have elements in place to please the Holmes purists while drawing in the larger audience that hasn’t read the books and only have a passing familiarity with the character.
Firstly, I need to point out that they really went forward with the Holmes/Watson “bromance” this time around. They don’t really keep it in the subtext anymore. It’s just plain text. Holmes’ dismay at Watson’s getting married and their parting of ways leaves him jealous like a scorned lover and the interaction between the two is quite entertaining. Jude Law has never been one of my favorite actors, I can’t seem to recall anything he’s done that has really stayed with me but his turn as Watson is thoroughly enjoyable and his chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. is remarkable. Downey has taken some flack for his portrayal of Holmes but by now everyone should be able to accept that this version of the character will act in a particular way and Downey does it quite well. He pulls off the eccentricities (which have been dialed up quite a bit here) and handles the myriad of disguises perfectly. He’s given us a version of the Holmes character that may not be one hundred percent in line with Doyle’s canon, but something that was extrapolated and molded from that vein.
Next I feel the need to point out that the villain this time around is Professor Moriarity. I think a number of folks were disappointed he didn’t have more of a presence in the first film. Here Moriarity is played by Richard Harris’ spawn Jared with great gusto and an authentic sense of menace. Harris’ Moriarity is the sort of villain that could save a much lesser movie. His performance is absolutely stunning and I would not be surprised if this film wound up getting Harris any number of new roles. He has had some choice performances in the past, and is supposedly equally impressive in his role on TV’s Mad Men, but I do believe this is the largest scale he’s ever worked on and he nails the role dead on.
There are some issues that stumble the film from time to time. Noomi Rapace, so well known for her vivid portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is pretty dull and lifeless for the majority of the film. I’m not sure if it was a language barrier issue or something else entirely but she was pretty much a dull void. An attractive dull void, but still a hiccup in the otherwise stellar casting department which also included Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft who had a tendency to steal whatever scene he was in. Then again, this is Stephen Fry we’re talking about. That’s to be expected. There are also some minor pacing issues and sometimes the film feels a bit slow between action beats, which seems like a horrid complaint to levy against a Sherlock Holmes film because there shouldn’t be that many action beats to begin with. But framed within the context of the film itself, the gaps are pretty apparent.
On the whole, it’s equally as good as its predecessor and I personally enjoyed it a great deal more based solely off of the escalation in Holmes and Watson’s interplay as well as the back and forth between Holmes and Moriarity. It isn’t a perfect film or a great adaptation in any regard but it is one of the better crafted action/mystery films of the year and I doubt many people will find much not to like about it unless they walk in with a pre-established vendetta.