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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Review

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT’S not often you get to celebrate a big budget sequel for being able to consistently surpass the achievements of the original but Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a follow-up that does just that.

Building on the elements that made the first film fun – the chemistry between leading men Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock) and Jude Law (Watson) and Guy Ritchie’s muscular, eye-catching camera-work – the sequel also makes better use of its main villain (Jared Harris’ Professor Moriarty) and has a far more interesting plot.

Admittedly, it benefits from the strong groundwork laid down by its predecessor but it refuses to take its audience for granted, finding new ways to impress and delight, while revealing more about the central characters and even throwing in the odd surprise.

The set pieces, meanwhile, are delivered with bombast and humour, thereby making use of the bigger scale afforded by the larger budget, and the more expansive use of location (which takes in Paris and Switzerland as well as London).

The plot finds Sherlock Holmes determined to pin a group of anarchist bombings that are taking place around Europe on the brilliant but mentally unstable Moriarty, thereby uncovering a war-mongering scheme that’s designed to bring its engineers vast profits.

But in doing so, he enters into a cat-and-mouse battle-of-wits with an adversary who is intent on doing as much damage to Holmes and those he holds dear as the legendary inspector does to him en route to thwarting his various plans. Hence, Watson’s own attempts to get married and begin a new life away from Holmes are continually placed in jeopardy.

Ritchie’s film starts with a bang and then hits the ground running, yet expertly manages to combine at least four or five outstanding set pieces with character development and plot intricacy.

Hence, the dysfunctional dynamic – or bro-mance – between Downey Jr’s eccentric Holmes and Law’s more steadfast Watson is as consistently intriguing as it is fun, affording both actors the chance for some quick-witted banter and some equally amusing silent moments of unspoken admiration (as occurs at Watson’s wedding).

But it also allows time for a suitably believable adversary to be developed between Holmes and Moriarty (expertly played by Harris) that is dictated as much by mutual respect as it is their determination to get the better of each other, culminating in a terrific game of mental chess between the two of them, which then descends into an elaborately staged ‘brawl’. Such moments are indicative of the careful planning that has gone into the sequel.

Memorable, too, is a sequence aboard a train, which manages to mix sometimes camp humour with bone-crunching action, and a pursuit through the woods that underlines Ritchie’s eye for an ultra eye-catching slow-motion image.

The mix of comedy and tension is also well maintained, meaning that not everyone is guaranteed safe passage to the end of the film, while nice support also comes from Noomi Rapace, as a mysterious gypsy with links to Moriarty’s grand plan, Stephen Fry, as Holmes’ even more eccentric (and sometimes naked) brother, and Paul Anderson, as another of Holmes’ adversaries.

Overall, then, Ritchie and co have delivered a crowd-pleasing package that makes the prospect of even more adventures from this particular duo one that ought to be relished. It’s a blast.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 129mins
UK Release Date: December 16, 2011