Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Movie Review: "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"
There are three things that make for a good sequel: more, more, and more, and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows does just that. Is there more action this time about? Yes. Is there more character and relational development? Yes. Is it more faithful to its literary counterpart? Yes.
Robert Downey, Jr. returns with charisma as the sleuth, with Jude Law not far behind as Dr. Watson, the straight man of the duo. Watson is getting married this go-around, which does not sit very well with Holmes, conveyed well by Downey, Jr without ever coming across as unnecessarily jealous. However, Watson's whole Honeymoon runs amok when him and Holmes must embark upon one final case to prevent Professor James Moriarty from manipulating the world powers -- via acts of terrorism -- into starting a World War.
Moriarty is every bit Holmes's equal, and Jared Harris manages to be as cool and collected as Downey, Jr. is as Holmes. However, what makes both portrayals work, is the emotions flashing behind their eyes that are masked by their demeanor and the way they deliver their lines, resulting in a lot of sophisticated set pieces that are more Hitchcock than what one tends to associate with the films of director Guy Ritchie.
The flick has fewer plot holes than its predecessor, though it lacks much of the crackling pace and energy of the first installment, often moving a touch slow for such an action heavy piece. Same as the first installment, there are a few scenes that just felt unnecessary and bogged down the flow of the story, such as the scene with Holmes's brother, Mycroft, in the nude.
Even through all of the slow moments, Ritchie manages to keep the audience in the story through the verbal sparring that is always enjoyable between Holmes and Watson, and taking us into Holmes's mind by not just hearing Holmes's thought as to how he is deducing his environment, but by also visually representing these things through camera movement and reactionary point-of-view shots.
The action as a whole develops organically throughout the story, with the story dictating the action rather than the action dictating what the story is about, and this is where A Game of Shadows is a step above so many other action films. The action is cleverly woven to where Ritchie can do a breathtaking chase sequence through the woods entirely in slo-mo, detailing every minor graze of a bullet and explosion, and then dial back to have a chess match between Holmes and Moriarty as the climax in a Hitchockian fashion. It is in moments like these that A Game of Shadows is the most successful, and it is why it builds upon the framework of its predecessor and surpasses it.
I give Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows an A-!