Anthony's Film Review
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
The first sequel to Guy Ritchie's version of Sherlock Holmes is a lot more entertaining than I expected...
When I saw the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and directed by Guy Ritchie, I thought it was all right. The plot had rather slow pacing, at least for a while, but I did admire the way Sherlock Holmes was reimagined. Instead of Holmes being an impeccable distinguished gentleman, Dr. John Watson being a middle-aged and slightly overweight man, and the story being a purely intellectual mystery, we now have Holmes as a younger and more eccentric man (though still like the character in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories), Watson as a younger and thinner man, and the story being a mystery mixed with exciting action. This new version of Sherlock Holmes made me somewhat eager to see the 2011 sequel A Game of Shadows once I heard about its upcoming release.
If there's one thing this new movie gets right, it's that it doesn't fully duplicate the predecessor. Here, Holmes isn't visited by someone who gives him a difficult case to crack. Rather, the first 30 minutes of the film features Holmes already in the midst of averting not one but two disasters. With clues that he already came into possession of, he stops a bombing at an auction and an attempted murder on a gypsy. As Holmes soon explains to Watson, there have been many mysterious crimes happening all over the world, and many are connected to a Professor James Moriarty, who is so cunning that Holmes considers him "the Napoleon of crime." For Holmes, taking down this adversary would be the crowning achievement of his career.
Watson, on the other hand, has something else on his mind. He is getting married soon, so his focus is entirely on his bride-to-be. Unfortunately, disaster strikes and leaves the doctor with no choice but to accompany Holmes on his case. Now the duo must try to catch Moriarty by learning what they can from the gypsy, a woman named Madam Simza (played by Noomi Rapace). Holmes and Watson soon find out that Simza and her brother had once been members of an anarchist group in Europe, but she left out of disgust of the extremism, while her brother stayed behind. She came to London to find her brother, only to nearly get killed, maybe for knowing too much.
The case takes the three characters out of London and across Europe. Along the way, Holmes's intense attention to detail and his ability to instantly put them together allow him to easily figure out things that have just happened and predict what might happen next. Watson, as the sidekick, has at least decent deductive skills and can be physically tough. Even Simza may prove to be useful later on, especially during the film's climax. Also along the way, the three find themselves in very dangerous life-and-death situations. The action scenes in this movie do not disappoint, because they are more exciting than those in the last Sherlock Holmes movie.
I must talk about the villain of this movie before I forget about it completely. Jared Harris delivers an unforgetably chilling performance as Professor Moriarty. The character truly comes alive as a real match for Holmes's intellect. There is a scene where Holmes comes face to face with the professor for the first time. The two men initially eye each other with admiration, like that of two well-matched friends, then the conversation ends with Moriarty staring coldly at Holmes, as if there will be trouble when they cross paths again. Sure enough, they do so, especially in the film's finale that is, hands down, my favorite scene in the movie. They have a showdown where each side makes his move very carefully and waits for an open opportunity to attack his opponent. Believe me. This part is worth waiting for.
Throughout this two-hour movie, I went from feeling pretty good about it in the beginning to being very impressed by it at the end. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is an improvement from
its 2009 predecessor by having its plot move a little more quickly, even though there are still scenes with humor to highlight the chemistry of the two main characters. It also presents a more intriguing case, a more memorable antagonist, more exciting action scenes, and even material from some of the original literary Sherlock Holmes stories (most notably "The Final Problem") which the previous film didn't really do. And on top of this, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law fit nicely into their respective roles as Holmes and Watson, especially Downey Jr. who had won a Golden Globe award for playing Holmes in the last movie.
Really, if Guy Ritchie wants to continue his vision of Sherlock Holmes in a long series, I say go for it. He definitely got it right with A Game of Shadows, so there's a chance for him to keep the heroic detective alive for years to come.
For more information about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my review of Sherlock Holmes.