Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Review

Greetings, Internet!

The Bearded Bullet is here to provide his thoughts on the sequel to 2009's smash-hit, Sherlock Holmes.  To say I was a fan of Guy Ritchie's original is quite an understatement (it was 8th on my top-ten list of 2009).  The original oozed coolness, mixed with intellect and intrigue.  Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock, paired with Jude Law's Watson, made for a great duo, riffing off of each other with witty banter and excellent dialogue.  This year's follow-up is one of those rare sequels that is better than the original.  All of those great qualities exhibited in the original return but are turned up to ten.

I could talk at length about my love for this series so I'll try to keep it brief.  The cast is back and as great as ever.  Downey continues to impress as the quick-witted Holmes.  Jude Law's Watson is sharp as ever, still trying to keep Holmes in line while trying to start a new, married, life.  Introduced into the mix is the shadowy antagonist behind the original film's events, Professor James Moriarty.  Moriarty is played quite effectively by the amazing Jared Harris.  His work as Lane Pryce on Mad Men is one of my favorite aspects of that show.

Harris is an excellent foil to Holmes' detective efforts, driving him to obsession and near-madness in his efforts to expose Moriarty as the villain he is.  Moriarty is one of those rare villains that can challenge our heroes at every step intellectually and physically.  GoS shares themes of the great sequels (Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight), in that our protagonists aren't always one step ahead of the villain and aren't always successful in their endeavors.  Holmes takes quite a beating during the course of the film, both physically and intellectually.

The other new additions to the cast include Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry.  Rapace is the wily gypsy, Madame Simza, whose brother is caught up in Moriarty's scheme.  Fry plays (quite brilliantly) Sherlock's brother, Mycroft.  Mycroft is just as witty and fast-talking as his brother but lacks the suaveness of Sherlock.

I won't get spoilery with regards to the plot itself, as half the fun of these films is trying to figure out what the villains are up to.  What I will say is that the story is quite engaging, but can be confusing at times.  GoS is a film that will benefit from multiple viewings, both in terms of story but also dialogue.  As with the original, the dialogue can be very fast-paced and if you aren't accustomed to Ritchie's other works you might be a bit lost.  The two Sherlock films are definitely his most mainstream work but they still provide enough of a challenge to make them interesting and worthwhile views.

The original's climax involved Sherlock providing exposition that clued us into what was going on and neatly summed up the film's events.  Game of Shadows plays with this formula, bringing us along for the ride as Sherlock unravels Moriarty's plot.  Don't get me wrong, there is still a bit of Holmes dropping knowledge on us, but its done in a more fluid manner.

I'll wrap up my review with the insanely good action scenes.  The original film had two major fights in which Sherlock used his high intellect and observational skills to foresee the outcome of a fight.  The sequel has several of these instances, but they don't always play out as Holmes sees.  Again, the screenwriters play with our expectations while blowing them out of the water.  Ritchie is a master of using slow-motion and speed-ramping to great effect.  One sequence has our protagonists being chased through a German forest (as seen in the trailer) with explosions abound.  The scene is filmed brilliantly and with great clarity.  It is one of my favorite moments from any film this year.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows isn't perfect but its a damn good time.  The film's intelligence can also be its curse; if you get lost during the ride the film will swing back around and pick you up before the finale.  I recommend seeing it twice if possible to assist in picking up things you may have missed the first time.  Fans of the original should most definitely see this stellar sequel.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a thrillingly fantastic experience.

Bullet out.

No comments:

Post a Comment