I would be lying if I said I weren’t a big fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I find the character fascinating and intriguing. I find the cases Holmes investigates riveting. So it was with utmost pleasure that I went to watch the sequel to the original Sherlock Holmes movie, titled: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
While the opening was a bit rickety and all over the place, the movie soon finds it sound and sets in. Opening in 1891 London, with Europe on the brink of war, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is pursuing professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), whom he believes is the cause of many explosions around the world, seemingly unrelated to each other. So Holmes sets out with his best friend Watson (Jude Law), along with a gypsy sidekick named Simza (Noomi Rapace), to unravel the mysteries behind Moriarty’s plan.
The movie’s highlight is definitely the chemistry between its two male leads: Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Their scenes together are always a breath of fresh air, bringing some comical relief to very tense scenes. Acting wise, Downey is as good in the sequel as he was in the first movie. He carries the movie almost all by himself with Jude Law strutting along to provide much needed support at key points in the movie.
Noomi Rapace is never allowed to stretch her wings in this. Her character is never pursued and is kept as such – an unimportant female sidekick, which the first movie also had in the form of the gorgeous Rachel McAdams who also has a very brief appearance at the beginning of Game of Shadows.
When it comes to its plot, Game of Shadows is convoluted, complex and at times difficult to keep track with unless you’re very focused on what’s happening on screen. In a way, it’s not a movie you want to watch if you have nothing better to do. Of course, everything gets answered eventually but it’ll be a much enjoyable experience for you as a viewer if you were very attentive at all the minute details. However, plot-wise, many of the deficiencies in the first movie are also present here: The villain’s intentions are never fully clear, the female sidekick is always left at the sideways.
As in the first movie, the director Guy Richie has a knack for speeding up action scenes and then slowing them down immensely. Sometimes, such as in a chilling forest chase scene, this works brilliantly. Other times, however, it feels useless. He builds the production in his movie with more or less tertiary layers that help somewhat in the buildup of the plot, but at the end of the day, it’s Downey’s character that helps propel the movie forward.
The whole movie, in fact, can be considered as a two-act play. The first act is one of guns, explosions and gymnastics whilst the second one is more of a big chess game. If you’re a fan of action sequences, the excitement of the first part will carry you through the second. If you’re a fan of puzzles, the first part is fast-paced enough for the second part to set it before you know it.
A Game of Shadows has more action sequences than its predecessor and they’re all very well executed, be it the scene involving the gypsy Simza escaping an assassin with the help of Holmes or a chilling train scene that will go on and on without you wanting it to stop. And at the end of the day, the movie – despite its many flaws – remains very entertaining and as engaging as its predecessor. Some might have felt it was a let down but I beg to differ. The movie was just so much fun to watch. You won’t get out of it feeling like your life has changed. After all, which movie does that to you? But it will leave you feeling like you had two hours of your life well-spent as you leave the theater.
You will most definitely enjoy the gorgeous cinematography, the great special effects and the exquisite chemistry between Law and Downey on screen. All of these three together form a combo for a very enjoyable movie you shouldn’t miss.