Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is an example of how to do a sequel right. It takes the good aspects of the first film – in this case the witty banter, the cool fight sequences, the formidable villain etc – and intensify them to make for an altogether more enjoyable and less problematic movie.
We catch up with Sherlock (Robert Downey. Jr) and his faithful Dr. Watson (Jude Law) some time after the events of the last film, and this time they have to try and stop the genius criminal that is Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) from bringing about “the collapse of Western civilisation.”
Easily the most enjoyable aspect of this current Sherlock Holmes incarnation is the exchanged dialogue between Holmes and Watson. The ingeniously cast Robert Downey Jr. once again brings his incomparable wit and charm to the role, and Jude Law is once more a great straight-man counter-balance to the titular detective’s unpredictable antics. The two actors clearly have a lot of chemistry together and their ability to deliver laughs while at the same time being believable – if unorthodox – heroes is better than it was last time round.
Everyone else is on solid form, too, including the likes of Noomi Rapace – aka the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - as the new female lead (Rachel MacAdams is virtually shoved aside to make way for the new blood), Jared Harris, brilliantly cast as Professor Moriarty, and Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s older, lazier brother Mycroft. They inhabit a Holmes universe which continues to feel fresh while still harking very much back to the classic stories originally written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over a century ago.
At the helm of the film once again is Guy Ritchie, a director more known for smart talking gangster films (Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) than big budget blockbusters. But he continues to prove himself very competent in this type of filmmaking, improving on what he did with the last movie while still maintaining the style through and through.
However, as enjoyable as A Game of Shadows is (don’t worry the title makes sense once you see the movie), it still suffers from some of the plot issues of the first one. Namely these are the various conveniences and contrivances peppered throughout that are completely ignored in aid of moving the plot onto the next stage. It might not matter when you’re caught up in the exciting action at hand but ponder it during the quieter moments and you’ll begin to realise some of it either doesn’t make any sense or at least requires some big logic leaps that are explained away frivolously later on. The nature of the character is to be able to solve things that others wouldn’t (portrayed as Holmes’ inner monologue during crucial moments) but there has to be a point where it makes more solid sense. The issues are, however, far less prevalent than they were the first time around.
Overall Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is clear improvement in just about every way, with more fun banter, bigger and better action set-pieces, a superior villain and a brisker pace. Perhaps the inevitable second sequel can improve on matters even more.