The second outing of Sherlock Holmes in modern movie form comes in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”, and once again stars Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, Jude Law as his estimable companion Dr. Watson, and adds star Jared Harris (Mad Men) as Holmes’ archrival Professor Moriarty. Set in the late 1800’s in England, “A Game of Shadows” moves to several locales in Europe, including Switzerland.
The movie begins with Watson typing his story of Holmes’ exploits, further mirroring the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the story, Watson visits Holmes, and again must deal with Sherlock’s eccentricities, which appear even more peculiar this time around. Watson’s impending nuptials set the stage for the kickoff of our story, our protagonists are quickly thrust into the heart of a conspiracy that is as mysterious as it is brilliant.
Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) makes a return appearance, showing that Holmes still has the upper hand in their tumultuous relationship. Holmes’ genius is again on parade as he solves puzzles both large and small, with the panache that only Sherlock Holmes could muster. As in the first film, Sherlock’s fighting prowess is shown off in pre-planned moves, illustrated in extreme slow motion. This is an invention of the modern form of Holmes, as the books by Doyle most certainly did not include such details or embellishments.
Holmes use of disguises is used more in “A Game of Shadows”, and are unique and interesting. The interactions of Holmes and Moriarty are chilling, and appropriate. For once, Holmes appears to have someone who can beat him, and gain the upper-hand. This is on display throughout the movie, and fans may be surprised by the outcome.
The film continues the use of super-slow-motion sequences, much like the first movie. Unfortunately, the effect is a bit over-done at times, and the novelty has worn off. The visuals are perfectly suited for the timeframe, and England is portrayed as dirty, grimy, and robustly populous. In every conceivable way, however, “A Game of Shadows” surpasses that of the first film. Though a bit confusing at the beginning, the plot quickly reveals the scope of Moriarty’s scheming. The only criticism one could claim of the film is that there is more focus on Sherlock’s fighting skills, than pure deduction. Some of the ‘puzzles’ are somewhat easier to foresee than in the previous film, including the ultimate revelation near the end. Still, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is a much better film that its previous outing, and one that is very easy to recommend to not just Sherlock Holmes fans, but fans of good movies.
– Reviewed by Bradley K. Brown