After Sherlock Holmes quietly had a fairly substantial international box office gross in the shadow of the box office juggernaut that was Avatar, a sequel seemed necessary. And Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows doesn’t do much beyond the original in terms of story or characters; it’s the equivalent to a Bond sequel would be in the Victorian Era. But it’s a bad thing, really, because it’s a fairly entertaining sequel if perfunctory.
When we catch up with Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his faithful assistant Watson (Jude Law) they’re getting ready for something Holmes finds repugnant: Watson’s wedding. But alas things are not what they appear to be as Holmes is on the trail of someone who can seemingly match him wit for wit: Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). Trying to lure the world into conflict, ostensibly to profit from it via munitions factories (amongst others), Moriarty is out to assassinate some higher up diplomats from both sides to get a conflict brewing. Holmes is the only one to figure this out and the two engage in a cat and mouse game as Moriarty’s big evil plan culminates in a spectacular finale.
And much like the first film in the franchise, Shadows functions because of its strong chemistry between Downey and Law. The two carry the film, which is a fairly pedestrian action thriller that hits all the usual buttons in terms of story-telling and tone, and make it feel more interesting while it’s happening. It’s the same thing that carried the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films: chemistry can overcome a pedestrian plot if it’s strong enough and Shadows has that in abundance.
It also has a tremendous villain. Harris is note perfect as the foil to the world’s greatest detective as its best criminal. Moriarty is also remarkably well written, too, and what keeps the film interesting despite an unremarkable plot is that there’s a feeling that Holmes could lose this game to his nemesis. Downey and Harris have a great chemistry together, as well, and it’s one that Ritchie milks well. He doesn’t have enough time to set it up with one big meeting after two separate storylines; the film wisely cuts to the chase and lets them interact freely throughout the film. It makes for interesting cinema as these are two good characters with two capable actors behind them.
Everything else about the film is fairly pedestrian, though, and it manages to waste Noomi Rapace in a throwaway role as a Gypsy helping out Holmes and Watson, and there’s nothing new or original about it. Ritchie has managed to find a fairly routine formula with the two main characters and doesn’t stray from it. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a fairly perfunctory but ultimately satisfying film.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Notable Cast: Stephen Fry, Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams
Writer(s): Kieran Mulroney and Michele Mulroney based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle