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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)


They’re Dangerous on Both Ends and … Crafty in the Middle

I was pretty excited to see today’s movie, but I got delayed in seeing it by almost a month because almost everyone I would normally ask to go watch a movie with me was out of town for the holidays or had already seen it.  It’s a sequel to a movie I enjoyed a great deal from a few years ago, and probably would have already rewatched and reviewed for you all if I had any idea where my DVD was.  But when my friend Greg came back to town, I saw this as my opportunity to get to the theaters and check this movie out.  This movie is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Paul Anderson, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James, and Eddie Marsan.

In 1891, in foggy old London town, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) delivers a package to some old guy at an auction house, but is headed off by an opium-adicted Asian guy … OR IS HE?!  No, it’s Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) in disguise.  It turns out to be a bomb, but Holmes takes care of it.  Adler disappears and the old guy is found dead outside, stuck with a dart in the leg.  Adler meets with Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), the mastermind behind this and other recent bombings, to explain her failure, but he takes the news about as well as she takes her poison.  Holmes takes his associate, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), out for a bachelor party, but it turns out Holmes is actually just following a lead.  Watson gets drunk and gambles while Holmes goes to meet a fortune-telling gypsy named Simza (Noomi Rapace).  He thwarts an assassination attempt on her, but she leaves without giving him much information.  Holmes goes and meets with Moriarty who, in their verbal exchange, reveals that Watson and his fiancee, Mary Watson (Kelly Reilly), may be his next target.  After thwarting the attempt on their life, Holmes sends Mary to live with his brother, Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry), and he joins with Watson to try to discover and defuse Moriarty’s plans.

This movie shares a great deal of traits with it’s predecessor and so if you liked that one, you’ll probably like this one.  I really liked the original, and thus I really like this one.  The story is very solid (although it’s probably based somewhat on the Sherlock Holmes books).  The dialogue is original and the characters are charming.  Much like the first one, the dynamic between Holmes and Watson was very entertaining, as they constantly seemed like they hated each other and bickered like brothers, but there was a great deal of fondness there.  Also, I won’t spoil the end of the movie, but they dragged a surprise for so long that I started to believe it though I had originally thought there was no way it would happen, then gave a very satisfying ending.  I also like that they used a chess game between Holmes and Moriarty to contrast their actual plans unfolding simultaneously.  It made chess tense, and the conclusion was very satisfying.  Beyond that, it looks really good.  The settings are all very well executed, but none more than the super sweet castle where the climax of the movie takes place.  It was built into a mountain towards the top, with snow around it and a waterfall coming out of the side of it.  It reminded me of the castle Nate Drake goes through to get to Shambala in  Uncharted 2.  The biggest complaint about the look is that the movie is always so dark.  Few scenes actually take place in the daytime, and it occasionally gets a little hard to tell what’s going on.  But the scene you may have seen in the trailer of them running through the woods, trying to outrun explosions and bullets, was really well done.  It used a lot of cool, innovative camera movements and used the slo-mo expertly.  I also really liked the fight scenes in both movies.  I had heard people complain about the fact that Holmes would visualize the fight in his head before it happened, and then it would play out.  In the first movie, the only thing I didn’t like about it was that they always turned out like they did in his imagination, so they got to fill time by just showing a good fight twice.  In this movie, they play with that more so that they don’t usually turn out they way he imagined.  But I like a good hand to hand fight, and this movie has many of them.

The performances in the movie were almost entirely terrific.  Robert Downey Jr. proved himself as a fantastic dramatic actor a long time ago, but his movies recently also prove him to be a fantastic comedic actor.  He gets to use both talents in this movie.  Holmes is often pretty eccentric, but shows a great deal of emotion when he finds that the lives of the people he cares about may be in danger.  Jude Law was a perfect straight man to Downey, and got to be funny a couple of times when he got drunk or was frustrated.  Jared Harris was a good villain, playing Moriarty as kind of innocent and charming, but also did insidious very well.  Though Noomi Rapace was pretty and performed her part well, I felt she was a big step down from Rachel McAdams.  I didn’t find her too terribly attractive, with or without dragon tattoo.  I was a bit bummed out when it appeared she had been replaced for the sequel, but I did like that she was in this movie a decent amount, and a motivating factor for the rest of it.  I liked her character much more, and I think she’s much better looking.  Stephen Fry had a couple of good funny moments too, and I like seeing him in things.

I think both Sherlock Holmes movies are great fun.  They have a really good mystery story, with charming characters and funny dialogue, great performances, and cool fight scenes.  The only thing I disliked about it was that Rachel McAdams was hotter and the movie was a little dark.  But it is called A Game of Shadows, so I guess I should’ve seen it coming.  I recommend this movie for a watch.  I’m happy that I saw it in theaters, but you could wait for the rental if you’re not convinced.  From me, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows gets “Oh, how I’ve missed you, Holmes” out of “It’s so overt, it’s covert.”

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