Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room...until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at largeâProfessor James Moriarty (Jared Harris)âand not only is he Holmes' intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may give him an advantage over the renowned detective.
Around the globe, headlines break the news: a scandal takes down an Indian cotton tycoon; a Chinese opium trader dies of an apparent overdose; bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna; the death of an American steel magnate... No one sees the connective thread between these seemingly random eventsâno one, that is, except the great Sherlock Holmes, who has discerned a deliberate web of death and destruction. At its center sits a singularly sinister spider: Moriarty.
Holmes' investigation into Moriarty's plot becomes more dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France, Germany and finally Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead, and moving perilously close to completing his ominous plan. If he succeeds, it will not only bring him immense wealth and power but alter the course of history.
Some characters are so iconic that they are successful in whatever medium in which they are presented. King Arthur, Robin Hood and Tarzan all come to mind as being just as effective in movies and television shows as they are in comic books and literature. Arguably the most famous of these genre transcending characters is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and his continuing popularity is evident in Guy Ritchie's newest Holmes film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows sees Sherlock Holmes (Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr.) and his ever-present sidekick Dr. John Watson (Jude Law from Enemy at the Gates) match wits with the brilliant Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris from "Mad Men"). After the murder of an Austrian prince, Holmes uncovers a plot that involves an anarchist group who is bombing public places to cause unrest around the country of England. When Holmes suspects Moriarty is behind the plot, the Professor meets with Holmes and challenges him to stop him - to basically solve the crimes before they happen. At Watson's bachelor party, Holmes meets with a gypsy fortune teller named Sim (Noomi Rapace, the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) who, unwittingly, had a role in the assassination of the prince and, unknowingly, has a bigger role in Moriarty's grand scheme, a devilish plot that, if successful, will impact millions of lives around the world.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is exactly what can be expected from a sequel to 2009's Sherlock Holmes. Guy Ritchie (Snatch, RocknRolla) puts his stamp all over it (like he does with all of his films), and the result is as much action as deduction. There will never be a Sherlock Holmes movie without dialogue, as usually the witty detective is the only one that knows what's going on and has to explain it to everyone else, but A Game of Shadows has enough action to keep it interesting so that it doesn't get bogged down in wordy exposition. Amidst the gunfire and explosions sits a clever plot that is full of twists and turns, and has plenty of the I-Forgot-About-That and Why-Didn't-I-See-That moments that turn good mysteries into great ones. The script, written by fresh new screenwriters Michele and Kiernan Mulroney, combines classic mystery elements with modern plot tricks, and then sprinkles in liberal amounts of dry humor. The mix of old and new makes A Game of Shadows both intelligent and entertaining, a rare combination indeed.
Given that Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is their second film in these roles, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law should have a handle on these characters. And they do. Downey's Holmes is still an expert detective and master of disguise, but he also emphasizes the boxer and swordfighter that was present in literature but often forgotten in films and on T.V. And his sense of humor, not only in the dialogue but in his body language and facial expressions, is a quality that can't be written into a script. Jude Law's Watson is a perfect straight-man, allowing Downey's Holmes to take on most of the glory, while silently going unsung in the background. Watson's primary function is as a sounding board to Holmes, and he serves the purpose well. The two actors work very well together, alternately carrying and being carried by each other and, ultimately, feeding off of each other so that the whole of their performance is greater than the sum of its parts.
For Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Guy Ritchie reunited with Sherlock Holmes cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (who has shot such blockbusters as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes), and the resulting film is not only visually consistent with its predecessor, but it's much more ambitious and grand than Ritchie's earlier work. Even with the beautiful scenery and Roussleot's sweeping photography, the vision of the film is completely Ritchie's, and the action scenes are where he shines. His trademark jumpy slow-mo to freeze-frame and CGI morphing is all there, but with the added bonus of Holmes' voiceover telling the audience what's going on in his head and, usually, what's about to happen. Time stands still while Holmes' thinks, exaggerating his quick thinking and faster reflexes. The fight scenes come off as The Matrix meets "C.S.I.," being both exciting and necessary to the plot and character development. Guy Ritchie does his thing, but within the boundaries of the story, so A Game of Shadows shows off a more mature, restrained directing style.
Action, Mystery, Drama
December 16, 2011