Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Roomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams
Plot: Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Crime
Awards: -
Runtime: 129min
Rating: PG13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material.




You got to hand it to director Guy Ritchie, who with the first Sherlock Holmes (2009) reinvented the famous fictional detective created by Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 19th century. From the books, we know Holmes as the master of disguise, legendary in his ability to reason, and brilliant in his use of forensic science to solve crimes. But wait a minute…all that seems to have been washed away, but except for a few traditional caricatures of the famed detective, Ritchie’s version has only one name, and he’s called Robert Downey Jr.

With this sequel, the charismatic Downey Jr. makes Holmes his very own man – a somewhat intelligent observer of action and an incredible master of predicted reaction, who with his occasional moment of lunacy, thrives in the heat of physical battle. He’s strong, yes, but he’s smart too. Sometimes too smart for his own good, which is why Dr. John Watson, a role reprised by Jude Law, is forced to back him up most of the time. Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, and Jared Harris round up the supporting cast, with the latter playing one of Holmes’ most challenging nemesis – Professor James Moriarty.

A Game of Shadows is as much a period action film as it is a bromance comedy. This odd mix elevates what could have been an average Hollywood blockbuster to something that is at least worth spending some time on. Downey Jr. and Law retain their “we love each other, but we also hate each other” onscreen chemistry. Their second effort pays off not tiresomely, but handsomely. There is a lot of humor for an action blockbuster, and much of it revolves around the brotherly love between the two leads. In perhaps the film’s most hilarious sequence, Holmes dresses as a woman to try to avert a murder attempt on Watson and his new wife.

Harris’ portrayal of the film’s villain is quite strong. To that effect, his steely and quiet determination, and a somewhat chilling persona, means that Holmes has met his match. Unlike The Seventh Seal (1957), the battle of wits in A Game of Shadows, especially in the climatic chess scene, remains evenly fought, even as action and mayhem around them ensue. Ritchie’s use of rapid editing and slow-motion in action sequences, most notably that of the forest chase, may seem like the norm in today’s blockbusters, but it proves to be highly visceral and thrilling.

A Game of Shadows, however, suffers from loose plotting that seems to put its characters into challenging situations that they must inevitably try to escape from, rather than having characters drive the plot simply by pure motivation and resolve. This Sherlock Holmes sequel is mostly fun and entertaining. Not the best of Hollywood popcorn films to end the year with a bang, but it does feature one of the year’s most cheeky and satisfying epilogue that is economical as it is effective. That I will leave you to discover for yourself.



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