Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows Can Do No Wrong!

Ensign Lestat's Film Night reviews begin.

After what seemed like ages, my sister and I finally decided to get out of the house and take in a film. Monday night was a good choice - no cricket in sight and no deadlines either.

We had several options to choose from (a rarity considering the quality of Hollywood fare these days), but we were aiming to catch either 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' or 'Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol'. These have been running in the theatres for a while and we were hoping we wouldn't miss them.

After some deliberating (not at the ticket counter like a lot of people), we decided to go with the one that both of us were (secretly) killing to see - Sherlock. Having just watched the first two episodes of BBC's 'Sherlock', Season (or is it Series?) 2 the previous week, we required our Sherlock fix for this week. That and watching Jude Law never harmed anyone.

The plot of this film is rather complicated and goes through several twists and turns. There are also rather an extensive number of bad guys for Sherlock and Watson to deal with, which makes the whole film a lot more intriguing.

The film starts off with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), before moving rather swiftly to an attempted bombing, foiled by a much-more-likable-this-time-around Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), to an encounter with a gypsy named Simza (Noomi Rapace), to Dr. John Watson's (Jude Law) wedding, an aborted honeymoon and a gunfight involving Sherlock dressed in drag, to a gypsy camp, Switzerland and the end of the film. Phew! Just broke a sweat writing all of that.

While none of this explains the plot of the film, I would say that is pretty much my point. Anything and everything can give away the fun aspect of the film - and that, in my opinion, is really what the film is about and for - fun. Guy Ritchie has certainly found his feet, his style and his career (I think) with this rendition of Sherlock. The first 'Sherlock Holmes' was interesting, and cinematographically breathtaking. But I felt that Ritchie and probably the producers as well, were unsure which path to take with the film and characters; how much to deviate from the original; how well their two leads would look and work together and, of course, who their audience would be. With 'A Game of Shadows' however, I think they figured out that the winning formula would be plenty of action, essences of the original Arthur Conan Doyle books (the script is an embellished mixture of several stories and that should keep fans of the original books happy), twists and turns, and most importantly Downey Jr. and Law spending lots of screen time together.

But let's get back to, what I believe, is one of the most outstanding on-screen pairings in a successful film in a long time - Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. They are E.L.E.C.T.R.I.C. I was stunned last year by the chemistry between James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in 'X-Men: First Class', but the writers and director did not use that chemistry to the film's advantage (and anyway, First Class was a terrible film). People wrote about the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law in the first Holmes film, but I didn't see it (or wasn't looking). This time around their bond is blatantly obvious, and Ritchie (maybe because he's English) uses that to his utmost advantage. There's one shot of the two leads talking - each taking up one-third of the frame, and in between them all you can see is figurative electricity. It is pretty fantastic to watch. Holmes' outrageous hyperactivity - both physical and mental - is perfectly balanced with Watson's quiet, calculated, assured thinking and actions.

'A Game of Shadows' also humanises Holmes - he acquires the help of a host of main characters, including that of his brother, Mycroft hilariously portrayed by Stephen Fry, (who I do wish had a slightly larger role in the film), Watson's wife, Mary (Kelly Reilly) and Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marson). Holmes also displays a yearning for Watson's friendship, which is made much more apparent by Watson's debacle of a wedding (it is quite funny when you watch it actually). These improvements on his character since the first film definitely make the film much more enjoyable.

The only point of contention for some people (especially fans of earlier renditions of the character) will be the violence. It didn't strike me one bit, till my Dad told me the reviews he had read mentioned the film was overly violent. That's probably true - especially one particular scene where a character is skewered with a hook. I can imagine a lot of people will, rightfully, squirm at the sight. But to me, it just seemed indicative of the kind of strategies one would use to beat down the competition. Having said that, considering Ritchie's resume, the Sherlock films are comparatively tame. But it's probably best to be forewarned.

All in all, I couldn't pick out a single thing that I would have changed in the film. In fact, I was ruing the fact that I skipped the 3D version, because there were a few scenes, one particular one in the forest (absolutely unnecessary and overlong, but so brilliant to watch that I would never take it out) which would have really come alive in 3D.  Beware the violence, and if you're in a country that has strict censorship laws regarding cinema, a scene with Fry in it will get chopped to incomprehensible bits. But feel free to watch and enjoy!


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