ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT FILMORIA
Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr Watson must outwit the evil Dr Moriarty as he spins a web of death and destruction; all part of a larger plan that could have devastating consequences.
Sherlock Holmes seems to be making a comeback in all media; TV, film, and books. This latest instalment in Guy Richie’s franchise continues from there the previous left off. Mostly. Holmes is still an eccentric genius whose friends and allies love him, although they do not necessarily understand him. Robert Downey Jr plays the character as he did the first time out; a detective who is tenacious but odd. This is not the Holmes who solved mysteries from his armchair in Baker Street, this is a man who gets involved, sneaks and fights his way to the very end. In other words, this is the Hollywood version of the character. The Holmes of old was a character who made for great TV, but for a running time of over 2 hours, it is right that he is more hands on than his incarnations past. Downey Jr’s accent has improved from last time and he channels the pirates of old as he swashes, buckles and romps his way through the story.
Jude Law is the logical and steady foil to Downey Jr’s incontrollable Holmes, and his contrast shows Holmes in amiable-but-crazy relief. Jared Harris plays a deliciously evil version of Moriarty, and obviously had fun with the role. Stephen Fry is wonderful as Holmes’s calmer older brother Mycroft. Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, shows up as an unexpected ally, but sadly the character is painfully underwritten. Rapace takes her time on screen and does glimmer for the odd moment, but she never really gets the chance to really shine.
Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows is highly stylised and at first the slow motion shots and lingering sequences where Holmes thinks out his moves are a refreshing change of pace. However, it is not long before these sequences begin to grate; the chase through the woods plays like a horror movie version of the Matrix, and one extended think-out on Holmes’s behalf is more than enough to understand how the character works. That said, the set pieces are large and spectacular, and they work well in terms of scale; Moriarty is trying to send the world into darkness, so demolished buildings and exploding trains fit well into this world.
In all, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is exactly what it promises to be; a lavish Victorian romp that is fun from start to finish. Yes, it may lack clarity in places and lose steam in others, but Downey Jr is obviously enjoying himself, and it is hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm. This is not the BBCs version of Sherlock, and not should it be. Both Guy Ritchie and Mark Gatiss have tried to distance themselves from one another and created two very different beasts. If it is a swashbuckling adventure along the lines of Pirates of the Caribbean you want, then this is the Sherlock for you.