Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

I definitely have a man crush on Robert Downey Jr.

Not only is he suaveness personified as Tony Stark in the Iron Man films and one of the main reasons I’m looking forward to the Avengers next year, despite the announcement that they’re doing it in 3D (please let 2012 be the year this gimmick dies) and he’s also brilliant in tons of other flicks- Tropic Thunder, Due Date and Air America to name but three.

He was also phenomenal in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, a fantastically fun action-adventure powered by RDJ’s excellent work in the title role and the wonderful chemistry between him and Jude Law’s Watson.

There are a couple of spoilers coming up.

The sequel picks up a few months after the original, Watson’s wedding is approaching and Holmes has become obsessed with a series of international bombings and crimes that he feels are the work of Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris).

Holmes’ love Irene (Rachel McAdams) continues to work for Moriarty and delivers a bomb to a renowned scientist who’s worked for Moriarty as well. Holmes defuses the bomb but the scientist is later assassinated, but has a letter the man had wanted delivered. Adler meets with Moriarty who tells her he no longer requires her services, and she is promptly bumped off, leaving Holmes sitting alone at a restaurant when she doesn’t turn up.

A while later Watson reunites with Holmes, who has become even more isolated and eccentric due to his friend’s departure. They go out for Watson’s stag night, but it becomes apparent that this is merely an excuse so that Holmes can meet Simza (Noomi Rapace), a gypsy fortune teller, the recipient of the letter who’s brother sent the letter and also works for Moriarty.

Simza vanishes after Holmes foils an assassination attempt, and gets Watson to the church on time where he marries. Holmes meets Moriarty for the first time and requests that as Watson is no longer his partner he be left alone, Moriarty declines this request and reveals that he has killed Adler.

On a train to their honeymoon, Watson and his new bride Mary (Kelly Reilly) are attacked. They defeat the assassin and Holmes reveals he has stowed away on the train to help them, he and Watson fend off the attackers, and Holmes throws Mary from the train where she is picked up by his brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) who works for the foreign office.

Holmes and Watson head to Paris where they track down Simza and begin to unravel Moriarty’s plot to buy up weapons and engineer a war that will engulf Europe so that he can make a profit.

Anyway, that’s the general plot.

Like the first installment this is jolly good fun and its the Holmes-Watson pairing. The film is structured around the wonderful, touching bromance between the two. RDJ and Law create a feeling of genuine warmth in their relationship and the bickering banter is endlessly amusing. They spark of each other in an unforced, easy manner like all the best partnerships.

Holmes and Watson- fantastic chemistry

Holmes’ sadness at losing his closest (only?) friend is quite touching, and his desire to have one last adventure with his partner is charming and rather sweet, as is the protective side he shows for Watson.

RDJ’s performance is again the film’s best weapon, and his shambolic, eccentric Holmes is a joy. He perfectly captures a feeling of a man struggling to remain balanced between genius and madness. There’s a whimsical side to his character which is engaging, and his lean physique works well in the character, showing how his single minded obsession has ravaged him. Yet, there’s something in his wiry taught frame that suggests that he still knows how to handle himself in a fight.

I’m not really a big Jude Law fan, but he is phenomenal in the less showy Watson role. There’s a toughness in the character and he’s not played as the buffoon he is in other adaptations, while not as sharp as Holmes he nonetheless shows intellegence and is a valuable ally to Holmes.

The supporting cast match them as well, although I was sad to see that McAdams didn’t play a bigger role as I thought she and RDJ had genuine chemistry in the first film. As the feisty gypsy Simza, Rapace has little to do and her character is never fully adapted.

The only female character who really engages is Kelly Reilly as the new Mrs Watson. She shows genuine wit and grit, and it explains what has attracted Watson to her, and she also helps them in their plans, as opposed to just being sidelined early on.

But as Moriarty, Jared Harris is fantastic, and the character works as like a darker, colder version of Holmes. He has the same brilliance, reasoning and powers of deduction, but there is no humour or kindness to temper it. But he’s an equal match for Holmes and the way they spar verbally is one of the film’s best features.

Moriarty- a good villain, ruthless, evil and well matched to our hero

Also brilliant is Stephen Fry as Mycroft, who is played to be very similar to Holmes although without the younger brother’s physicality and attraction to life’s dodgier elements. The wit and intellegence is there, but Mycroft appears more pompous and less likely to place himself in harm’s way. He does provide the film with some additional comic relief and the interplay between the brothers is charming.

Fry as Mycroft, pompous but entertaining

Ritchie shoots the film in a fantastic way, the characters are given room to breathe and interact but the action sequences are shot in a visually interesting, exciting way. The fight scenes have a genuine bone crunching toughness and the disjointed cuts show

The first film’s technique of showing Holmes thinking through coming events before executing them is reused but never feels forced, and works especially well when Holmes and Moriarty have their final showdown and both use the gift so that the long fight is played out before Holmes decides to pursue an easier, shorter solution.

Its a clever subversion of what you expect and shows how evenly matched the two adversaries are, as well as setting up Holmes’ daring, powerful final move.

A fantastic, fun sequel, great performances and a brilliant, warm central partnership between the fantastic RDJ and Law. 4/5

Any thoughts? You know what to do. TTFN

One thought on “Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

  1. Although all of the freshness that was part of the first one is somewhat over-used, the flick is still a lot of fun with Downey Jr., Harris, and Law breathing life into each of their own characters. However, I was kind of disappointed by Noomi Rapace’s role as she just simply stands there and really doesn’t do anything. Regardless though, good review.

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