Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly
Synopsis: Ritchie’s unique take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s popular sleuth continues with this sequel to the 2009 original. Moriarty (Harris) emerges as the true threat and intellectual counterpart to Sherlock. No longer just a man pulling strings he now has a face, and he seeks Sherlock’s demise such that nothing can interfere with his plans.
The key to a successful sequel is often very elusive, with few franchises getting the balance just right between what worked with the first film, and what should be added to the next to prevent the film treading familiar ground. Even those that are successful rarely better the freshness of the original. Unfortunately for A Game of Shadows, improvements to the original premise are made, and yet some of what made the first film original and fun was lost in the process.
One of the elements that worked really well in the original was the moments that the film went inside Sherlock’s head as he sleuthed a problem. This is still present and correct, and at times delightfully altered, such as one fight scene having the unpredictable element of Rapace’s gypsy set the original plan off-balance. However, it often feels as if Ritchie is rushing through these sleuthing moments, almost afraid to bog the audience down in the detail of an overly convoluted mystery. Indeed, some of these sleuthing moments are constructed of flashes of images leading to a scene re-creation with no quiding dialogue. This can indeed prove effective, however I did find towards the end of the film that one significant detail that was key to the overall unravelling of the mystery had escaped my notice entirely.
So in trying to avoid repeating themselves, the film instead has become a more convoluted affair, and though some of the humour from the first film is still definitely present, it could have used a lot more of that too. Thankfully, the off-kilter relationship between Holmes and Watson does remain, with Law particularly delightful as a newly wed in this chapter. Many of the major new characters also do not disappoint, in screen time or performance quality. Fry is well utilised as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, a much more comic representation than in the source novels. Harris is also a fantastic Moriarty, often under-playing his own menace, but seeming all the more menacing for doing so. He is a fine actor, not surprising giving his father was the wonderful Richard Harris. However, another crime of this very involved plot is that an actress of Rapace’s quality is not given nearly enough to do, and I would have loved to have seen her do a lot more.
The film does redeem itself with the final act. Given that the final act in the last film was actually a let down, I am delighted to say that this was an area that they successfully prevented from repeating themselves. Anyone familiar with Doyle’s source novels will also get a thrill that the film is indeed faithful to a degree to the proper Holmes/Moriarty story arc.
This is overall an enjoyable film, mostly due to how well it ends. The journey to this ending, though containing many fun moments, is not quite as spectacular however, making this more a fun film to pass the time than anything else.
3 stars out of 5