Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The first Sherlock Holmes film by Guy Ritchie was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 09/10 Christmas season. Robert Downey Jr's playfully eccentric take on the iconic Englishman might not have been to the purists' taste but few could deny it wasn't a lot of good harmless fun. So when the inevitable sequel was announced I must admit it got me genuinely excited. It's also worth noting that Sherlock Holmes has enjoyed a 21st Century renaissance by the BBC and portrayed wonderfully by the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch. Though is the world really big enough for two mainstream Sherlock Holmes? Yes it very much is...

The story picks up roughly where the last film left off with Holmes in meticulous pursuit of his elusive nemesis Professor James Moriarty (Mad Men's Jared Harris). All the while the good Doctor Watson (Jude Law) is finally marrying his girlfriend who featured in the last film, Mary (Kelly Reilly). When the wedding night goes horribly wrong, the original dynamic duo join forces once again to stop Moriarty collapsing the very structure of Western Europe and the outbreak of a world war.

Not much can be said about Robert Downey Jr's Holmes that probably wasn't said when I reviewed the first one nearly two years ago. It had all the elements of a typically brilliant comedic performance from the actor, albeit sporting a (fairly decent) British accent. Once again his chemistry with Jude Law was marvellous, giving the relationship between the two characters an almost 21st Century 'bromance', while also letting Watson himself stand on his own as perfect folly to Holmes' eccentricities.

I've always been a big fan of Jared Harris' work and was delighted to see such a versatile, hard-working actor cast as Moriarty instead of cashing in on a big name for the sake of it, like say Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt as was once originally rumoured. He was ruthlessly sinister and unassuming while playing off Robert Downey Jr brilliantly. If the whole film had consisted of the two of them playing chess, I think they could have made it work. Fans of the books will certainly smile at reference to possibly the pair's most iconic moment which I won't spoil here.

The other new additions to the cast were equally as glorious to watch on screen, the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (as she'll probably forever be known as) Noomi Rapace dazzled as the mysterious gypsy story-teller while the great Stephen Fry had some truly hilarious scene stealing turns as Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. Sadly there just wasn't as much room in the story this time round for Eddie Marsen's bumbling Inspector Lestrade and Rachel McAdams' beautiful Irene Adler.

Though the film largely retained all the elements which made the previous entry so enjoyable, it also carried over a few of the first film's faults too. Namely milking the back-tracking, slow motion, analysis sequences and over stylised set pieces which admittedly are signature to Ritchie's overall style as much as they are to this Sherlock Holmes' narrative structure. Unfortunately one particular scene involving Holmes, Watson et all running through a forest avoiding large gun fire did take the piss ever so slightly and if done in real time probably could've shaved half an hour off the film's running time.

Nevertheless the productive values were raised compared to the last time, the CGI far better and the steampunk technology, Victorian costumes and period set designs still beautiful on the eye. Hans Zimmer's score featured the playful theme from the last film and during the more action orientated sequences, some intense booming moments which are reminiscent of his more famous collaborations with Christopher Nolan.

Final Thoughts
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows doesn't deviate too much from the formula which made the first film so much fun. But as the old cliché goes, if it's not broke why should you fix it? Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law were tremendous once again as Holmes and Watson respectively, while Jared Harris gave some old school flare to the villainous Professor Moriarty. It's not the slow burning Sherlock Holmes adaptations your granddad grew up with, but in all honesty, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is in cinemas everywhere now.

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