Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows Review

The secret of a compelling film? It’s elementary my dear reader.

A Game Of Shadows begins and ends at the desk of Dr John Watson, with the former military man committing his thoughts to a typewriter and narrating this story for us.

As always, one man appears pretty central to the inner workings of the good doctor’s mind; with Holmes’ latest adventure taking him to Europe without his soon to be married companion in pursuit of a lead from their last case together.

Either that, or Sherlock still relishes duelling with his on/off paramour Irene Adler.

Adler’s gamesmanship and deceit are only matched by Holmes’ proclivity for the two, which is probably where the root of their attraction, ahem, lies.

However, Holmes true nemesis of an altogether less playful nature has plans afoot for both London’s most prominent detective and anyone in his life that’s close to him.

What Professor James Moriarty’s nefarious mind has lying in wait is anyone’s guess, anyone except the artful master of deduction himself of course.

For guessing is not something Sherlock Holmes relies upon.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows picks up where Guy Ritchie’s first inspired reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation left off.

Holmes is once again played with gay abandon by Robert Downey Jr, with Jude law reprises his supporting role as the detective’s partner and confidant, Dr John Watson.

This time round, they’re joined by Noomi Rapace as tarot card travelling gipsy Simza, and Jared Harris as Moriarty; Holmes’ arch nemesis who was content to stay in the shadows during the first instalment.

Not being a fan of Ritchie’s idiosyncratic brand of cockney gangster films, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed his first Sherlock Holmes that resurrected the famous detective for a new era.

So I was looking forward to seeing how A Game Of Shadows would play out.

The by now familiar quirks from the first Sherlock Holmes, slow motion action scenes, telegraphed fight sequences and the stylish environs of early industrial era London, are all present and correct in this sequel.

Only now there are more exotic locations, larger set pieces and even bigger bangs.

Yes, Ritchie has made everything bigger, grander and louder in Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows.

Only they seem to have forgotten to give the script this same attention to detail.

While the first Sherlock film was light and full of mysteries for Holmes and his medical brother in arms to unravel, this sequel is much heavier in tone with foreboding consequences looming over the horizon.

In part this is because there’s now a very calculated battle of wits taking shape between Conan Doyle’s two classic foes of Sherlock lore, instead of the literal game of shadows played out in the previous film.

But the biggest difference is the absence of a female partner for Downey Jr to spar with.

Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler excelled in this respect, and returns to remind us of the repartee these two shared in first act cameo. Alas, the excellent Noomi Rapace is rarely afforded such luxuries in her more subservient character.

In trying to make everything about A Game Of Shadows bigger than the first film, Ritchie and co seem to have ignored what gave their Holmes adaptation so much joie de vivre in the first place.

Of course, there’s still the very natural chemistry of Downey Jr and Law’s characters co-dependent relationship to add some much needed levity to proceedings.

But when this is absent for long periods, A Game Of Shadows is rather more PC Plod than Sherlock Holmes.

Jonathan Campbell

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December 2011
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