Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) – Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie’s follow-up to his take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic creation, Sherlock Holmes, brought to life entertainingly by Robert Downey Jr., plays with some familiar elements, characters and story moments. It gives us a rousing second film that builds on the first and makes things personal for Holmes in his pursuit of Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris).

Watson (Jude Law) is moments away from being wed to Mary (Kelly Reilly) when Moriarty makes the game dangerous for all those involved, and he certainly won’t let Watson leave the board, in fact, he may make a pleasant secondary target as his true plan centers on starting an international conflagration.

Their quest leads them from England to Europe, where they find themselves working with Madame Simza (Noomi Rapace), who is looking for her missing brother, and fears he may be playing a part in Moriarty’s plan.

I quite enjoy this rough-and-tumble take on Holmes that pays enough homage to its source material to not be considered too contrary to what was written but just a different perspective. There are nods to familiar cases and moments, and we get the introduction not only of Moriarty but of Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft (Stephen Fry).

The story moves at a breakneck speed, and Ritchie makes full use of his actors’ performances, as well as some solid locations and sets. The computer-generated scenery and images aren’t quite as jarring this time around.

In fact, it could be argued that the second film is stronger than the first, it’s set in an established reality, we know this version of the characters, and it builds on what has gone before. But perhaps it can just be one long story since there is still word of a third film coming.

Harris has a knack for playing morally grey characters or straight-out villains, and going toe to toe with Downey in this film both actors seem to be having a grand time.

The bromance that was played with in the first film is front and center in this one as Holmes struggles with the fact that Watson is getting married and that their time together may be over, which leads to a nice spin on the ending of the classic Holmes story, The Final Problem.

Of course, these films when they came along were in direct competition with the beloved BBC update on the character with Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Elementary, but now, without so many Holmes stories running around, this one can be revisited and seen for what it is: a fun, entertaining take on a classic character that isn’t afraid to get dirty, funny, and playful.

I do hope a third one is coming, but it also makes me want to revisit the BBC series. The game is afoot.

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