Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movie review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

With Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of Shadows, director Guy Ritchie confirms that he's onto a winning combination.  This film is the second interpretation of this latest incarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's indefatigable savant detective, with Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role and Jude Law as his faithful companion, Doctor Watson.

I was steeled for disappointment when I sat down in the theater.  In my experience, sequel films rarely live up to the expectations of the initial.  I can think of no more apt comparison than the Indiana Jones movies of the 80s.  The first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, was novel, frolicking, and delightful.  The subsequent films didn't hold up nearly as well.

But A Game of Shadows surprised me by not just equaling, but surpassing its predecessor.

Just as with the first film, I was taken with the elaborate sets depicting London, Paris, and various European sites as they must have appeared in the late 1800s on the eve of the great industrial wars:  squalid and enchanting, ominous, shadowy.

Robert Downey is, as one might expect of a first-rate actor, positively brimming with charisma and he lays it on thick in this film.  The chemistry between him and Law, laced with a subtle homoerotic tinge, ("Lie with me, Watson," says a shirtless, lipsticked Holmes in one action-packed scene") sparkles.  And the supporting cast,  the gypsy mystic Madame Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry), Holmes' well-connected brother, and Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), Holmes' villainous nemesis, contribute admirably.

With the addition of the new characters, and especially Harris' Moriarty, a complex tale of subterfuge unfolds.  The plot is involved and requires sharp attention.  The dialog is sharp and quick; the pace, unrelenting.  There is plenty of shooting, plenty of explosions, but despite this, I would not hesitate to recommend (in fact, did recommend) this film to my easily-flustered mother.

Overall, A Game of Shadows is a visually-appealing, action-packed romp.  If you're looking for good family entertainment, this film fits the bill quite nicely.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I have been thinking of watching these films, they look like a bundle of fun.  My reservation has been with the idea of them being Sherlock Holmes stories.  I grew up with Basil Rathbone black and white films, full of formality and gentle pace.  If the characters simply had different names I would be there in a shot.  Somehow it is so hard to change preconceptions, somehow this Sherlock Holmes is "wrong", like  Peter Jackson's changes to LOTR were "wrong."