Ilike Sherlock Holmes, in pretty much any incarnation. Whilst I haven’t managed to devour Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, I still enjoy the recent adaptations (my all time favourite is Disney’s Basil: The Great Mouse Detective). Guy Ritchie first brought us his version of the fictional sleuth in 2009 with Sherlock Holmes which succeeded in being a great action movie: it was funny, looked good and showed a new, charismatic Holmes who has convincing chemistry with Watson. A couple of years down the line sees the release of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Ritchie’s sequel which promises more of the same which made the former film so enjoyable.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows sees the return of Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law reprising their roles of Holmes and Watson respectively. The two detectives do what they do best: fight off bad guys, outsmart villains and make witty comments whilst they do so. We are also formally introduced to Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris, aka the wonderful Lane Pryce from Mad Men): Homes’ long standing archenemy, who was briefly mentioned in the 2009 film. Moriarty and Holmes’ relationship is a key plot point to this movie, as we discover the two intellectual equals clash over good and evil.
Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander in the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and subsequent films) is brilliant as Madame Simza; a gypsy Holmes meets following his interception of a letter, discovering Moriaty’s involvement. Unfortunately, Madam Sim isn’t given enough screen time to equate Rapace’s capacity as an actress. Rapace did significant research into gypsy culture (living with families, learning how to dance and cook convincingly) before filming Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows to add authenticity to her character. Whilst this research clearly paid off, it’s a shame she doesn’t do as much as I’d like her to. Present in the majority of the scenes, the gypsy Simza takes the back seat over Holmes and Watson’s bromance which verges on the homoerotic.
As with Sherlock Holmes, the title sequences are beautiful. The punchy soundtrack matches the fast pace of the movie brilliantly, carrying it somewhat when it reaches a lull (not that this happens much). We also see the welcome return of Gladstone, Watson’s bulldog. With the success of Beginners and The Artist, now more than ever we see that every true hero has a canine sidekick. Even though I might be reading too much into this, I still loved the dog.
There’s no doubt that those who enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes will also like A Game of Shadows. It is the same winning formula, with the addition of Stephen Fry as Holmes’ brother for extra light entertainment. There are many additional laugh out loud scenes, including Downey Jnr in drag, that makes the movie easy going enjoyment. In contrast, the climatic scene of Holmes and Moritary battling over a chess board is wonderful, making up for the samey, familiar feel the rest of the movie has.