Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows Review
Arriving just weeks before the return of BBC’s modern reinvention of Sherlock, comes Guy Ritchie’s markedly different take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic character in a sequel that arguably, for once, is very welcome. 2009’s Sherlock Holmes introduced us to Ritchie’s all-action Holmes and Watson, a version that worldwide audiences took to their heart to the tune of over $500m, but it was blighted by the need to set up Ritchie’s particular vision for his Holmes. Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows has no such concerns and, as a result, is not only able to get straight into the action – literally, as we get the first Holmes-O-Vision fight scene within ten minutes – but also everyone else seems more comfortable in their roles that the film is so much fun, it should be illegal.
Centred around a series of bomb plots that only Holmes manages to link to the seemingly reputable Professor James Moriarty (a name as iconic as our protagonist’s), A Game Of Shadows sees our heroes visit France, Germany and Switzerland to uncover Moriarty’s devious plan. Pleasingly, Ritchie didn’t see fit to beef up Moriarty and in an inspired casting, Jared Harris is brilliant as Holmes’ ultimate foe who leads with his brain and not his brawn, with the climactic showdown between the two as devilishly clever as it is riveting. Joining the melting pot is the ever-dependable Stephen Fry as Holmes’ brother Mycroft and, predictably, he steals every scene he’s in essentially by playing Stephen Fry with added camp.
We could happily have watched Holmes and Watson verbally sparring for two hours, such is the infectious chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law (both superb), but Ritchie happily sees fit to give you enough bang for your buck as our duo find themselves embroiled with numerous Moriarty henchmen. Stand-out is a stunning sequence as Holmes and Watson (along with mysterious Gypsy, Sim – an underused Noomi Rapace in her first English-speaking role) escape from a factory through the woods. Ritchie’s excellent use of ultra slow-motion, combined with an impressive array of explosives, result in a thrilling and visually spectacular set piece that’ll leave you breathless.
In truth, the film works because it doesn’t stray from the blueprint laid out by the first film and instead just finds everyone on more confident form, resulting in a stronger film for us but anyone who found aspects of the original – the slowed-down fight scenes, the pacily delivered dialogue, especially from Downey Jr. – an issue, will likely end up with the same concerns. However, Ritchie is sharp enough to deviate in some form and Holmes-O-Vision (where Holmes plays out the fight scenes in his head) is turned on its head twice, once in a particularly delicious way towards the end.
Everyone else will just find more of the same and revel in it as it is a crowd-pleaser in every way, right down to a welcome cameo from the first film that’ll leave you grinning. It may not be the most faithful of adaptations – although some dialogue is lifted from the books – but only Doyle enthusiasts will care as Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows is easily the year’s most enjoyable blockbuster.