Review of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


Movie Review: "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" --

Rating: PG-13 (intense violence and action sequences, some drug material)
Length: 129 minutes
Release Date: December 16, 2011
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Genre: Crime/Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes back in 1887. Part of the allure of Holmes, besides his great deductive reasoning abilities, was that he didn't seem to have an equal. When the 1893 novel "The Final Problem" came out, Holmes faced off against Professor Moriarty, an evil genius who could almost go toe-to-toe with Holmes.

Fast forward to 2009, when director Guy Ritchie tried to update Holmes for modern audiences while still setting the story during the Victorian era. Ritchie was successful, although Holmes' adversary was not nearly as quick or smart as Professor Moriarty. Perhaps this is why Ritchie decided to adapt "The Final Problem" for this sequel. In bringing Moriarty (Jared Harris) into the fray, Ritchie gives Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) a foe who is every bit as interesting as the detective himself.

When the story begins, Moriarty is carrying out assassinations with the help sharpshooters and a bomber. His hope is to elevate fear to the point that France and Germany go to war with each other. He knows that war means big money for those who can provide munitions. It just so happens that he owns a large factory that produces instruments of war and intends to make a fortune should the two countries collide.

Moriarty and Holmes first cross paths when Holmes inadvertently stops a message he sent out. The message was given to Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who fans of the first film will remember as the woman Holmes desires. Adler doesn't know what Moriarty is up to and doesn't realize she is being used as a pawn in his game. When she is interrupted in her mission by Holmes, the message never gets to its intended receiver. This angers Moriarty, who now has Holmes in his crosshairs.

The plot turns to Holmes and his trusty sidekick, Watson (Jude Law), follow Moriarty across Europe by train in an effort to stop his plans. This type of international intrigue really isn't in the realm of a consulting detective like Holmes. It is work probably better left to highly-trained spies and infiltrators, but Holmes takes on the job without blinking an eye, which is a testament to how much director Ritchie has truly updated the character.

Before Holmes can take off to stop his foe's nefarious plans, he must first attend Watson's bachelor party. He is none too pleased that Watson has decided to marry Mary (Kelly Reilly) and isn't afraid to show his disproval. Nonetheless, he throws a bachelor party and even invites his brother (Stephen Fry), who drinks a little too much while playing cards. He ends up naked with his private parts surreptitiously hidden by various objects, much like you would expect from an Austin Powers movie.

After the big laughs of the bachelor party and a close call with some of Moriarty's henchmen, Watson and Mary set out on their honeymoon, joined by Holmes. Some of the best action sequences take place on the train, and Ritchie directs these scenes with an eagle eye for detail.

There a several more explosive action scenes as Holmes and Watson get closer to stopping Moriarty. The best action sequence is left for the end, when the two adversaries finally get to face off. Fans of the Moriarty character from Doyle's books will absolutely love this final confrontation, because it really does feel like Holmes has met his match.

These final scenes employ lots of camera trickery to capture the fight. Both Holmes and Moriarty are not only capable of fighting, but can see their opponent's moves coming by using their highly-honed deductive reasoning skills. Ritchie uses slow motion capture to show the two men as they try to predict what the other's next move will be. It is an exhilarating sequence that is truly the highlight of the film.

All of the returning actors continue to flesh out their characters, while newcomer Jared Harris plays Professor Moriarty as a quiet genius. There is no twirling of mustaches or evil laughs, but he manages to make the character no less scary. His nuanced performance and the fact that he is every bit as smart as Holmes will make audiences wish he could return. The plot does leave just enough room to hint at a third movie being made, though. Audience members can only hope that if a third movie is filmed, the villain will be every bit Holmes' equal the way Moriarty is in this film.