Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his longtime trusted associate, Doctor Watson (Jude Law), take on their arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), with the help of Holmes's older brother Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry) and a gypsy named Sim (Noomi Rapace). © IMDb

This is the second installment of the Sherlock Holmes franchise starring Robert Downey Jr. as the great detective. The first installment, which I saw exactly two years ago, was very impressing. That was a completely new take on Sir Conan Doyle’s never dying detective story, full of style, fascinating action, humorous dialogues and amazing soundtrack. Robert Downey Jr. reinvented Sherlock; his Holmes is arrogant, sociopathic but nevertheless absolutely loveable. The movie was peppered with something called “flash-forward” – which is how Sherlock planned his fights. Overall, the movie was easy to watch, the storyline kept attention and visually it was very organic.

No doubt, after the success of the first part producers had to start working on the sequel. Lucky for them, the arch-enemy was mentioned only briefly and hence there was the storyline left unexplored. Clearly, there was pressure to deliver the same kind of Holmes, but more of it. And this is where, I think, the whole myth broke down.

In the race to give us more action and more humorous dialogues, something essential to the good detective story was lost – consistent and interesting storyline. I cannot even consider the Game of Shadows as detective story – it is not classical whodunit, the thrill is added absolutely unnaturally, there are a lot of logical holes in the plot (Spoiler alert. The red book story was a shame. Do they really think that criminal mastermind checks his balances once a month?) Guy Ritchie forgot about the storyline and instead started to play with camera and decided to add some new, bigger guns, more action, more fights. Holmes’ deduction is not capable of stopping bullets, and hence he looks like an outright loser, outdated but smart man.

Because of this underlying flaw, the first part of the movie is outright boring. We know whodunit, and we absolutely don’t care what he is going to do next. The pale try to add some drama to the story makes it all look even feebler because of the main characters. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. don’t look natural – they look like two clowns from Chaplin-era movies, trying to play out some “funny” dialogues.(spoiler alert. The whole storyline with Ms. Adler is weird. I know they wanted to show how smart and cruel Moriarty is. But there are hundreds of ways to do so without needlessly killing loveable character on the 10th minute of the show. Holmes’ reaction was weird too. Throw away the handkerchief? And that’s it? Ms. Adler looked like child unloved by screenwriters.) The jokes keep repeating themselves; it is difficult to believe in the drama part – the whole plot fails to keep attention.

The second part is more interesting, mainly because authors decided to insert some action. I have to say – the episode in the woods is amazing. That was the moment when I recognised old stylish Sherlock Holmes from the first part – dynamic, breathtaking and spectacular. It was the moment that was worth waiting for an hour - you can easily spot this moment even in the trailer as it clearly stands out from the rest  of the picture. 

After that the movie gains some pace – but the battle for the hearts is lost already. The movie looks more like high profile video to the music of Hans Zimmer, falling apart into disconnected pieces if you start to look at it closer. Apart from chase in the woods scene, there were few great moments. I would like to draw your attention to Stephen Fry’s Mycroft and his servant. They managed to fill the movie with festive attitude that attracted people to the first part and so obviously absent from the second part, but other than that… trailer delivers more than the actual movie.

OPINION: In the race to give people more of Sherlock Holmes, authors decided to play a bit more serious and lost. Storyline does not hold attention and is not logically flawless. Dialogues are not particularly funny, characters do not surprise and amaze as they did in the first part.

WATCH if you have seen the first part many times and want a bit more. Also you may want to watch the Game of Shadows just for the sake of Mr. Fry’s performance and the scene of chase in woods.

P.S. The movie looks even worse if you compare it with Sherlock played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC’s Sherlock series, but that is the story for the next time…


  1. I didn't care much for the first movie (Sherlock Holmes is not a low class, slovenly, mixed martial arts master), and I felt this one was more of the same, until it got to the last act. I loved the face off with Holmes and Moriarty over a chess board and over Reichenbach Falls.

    I completely agree that Sherlock is har superior to these movies.

    1. Yes, the face-off as it is was amazing. However, I didn't like the fact that Holmes basically sent Watson to solve the problem he should have been solving himself, and acted as distraction to Moriarty rather than the greatest detective.

  2. Excellent review of the movie.

    I liked the first movie better, as it resembled a Holmes mystery. This one is just a flat out Hollywood actioner and has not much to do with a typical Sherlock Holmes mystery.


    1. Thank you for your comment!

      I doubt that a Holmes mystery can be found anywhere near new Holmes productions. Even the much adored by me Sherlock series by BBC had very little to do with mystery - they catch with style.
      For mystery I would re-watch good old Russian series - or watch the Poirot series starring David Suchet