The game is afoot!
Guy Ritchie brings us a second SHERLOCK HOLMES film -- this one subtitled “A Game of Shadows.” Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return in their roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Indeed, it is the chemistry between these two that gives the film its energy and focus. The subtitle seems to be an accurate one because most of the film takes place either at night, in late afternoon, or in dark rooms. It’s literally “shadowy”. Holmes faces his archenemy Professor James Moriarty who intends to provoke World War I. Moriarty is setting himself up to profit mightily from a new kind of weaponry. Of course, the year is 1891, so it’s obviously almost two decades before the actual conflict. Knowing this, however, does not impair the film’s suspense. Ritchie gives his audience plenty of surprises and twists, as well as state-of-the-art visual effects. Mischief will be made!
Dr. Watson marries his fiancé Mary (Kelly Reilly) in this film, and she’s certainly a good sport about his involvement in Holmes’s elaborate schemes. Also appearing in this one is the wonderful Stephen Fry as Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother. Fry approaches his role with laugh-evoking eccentricity and displays a total lack of inhibition. Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), the “girl” in Ritchie’s first film, appears only briefly. The “girl” in Game of Shadows is played by Noomi Rapace, who portrayed Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish production of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. She does an adequate job with what she is given, but let’s face it - girls were never an important part of Conan Doyle’s stories. It’s a boy’s club. She plays a gypsy, Madam Simza, who joins Holmes and Watson to search for her brother Rene (Laurence Possa) who’s believed to have fallen under Moriarty’s spell. Their search leads them to Switzerland where Holmes and Moriarty will play out their “game,” symbolized by an actual game of chess.
Ritchie provides us with abundant gun play, explosions, and plain old hand-to-hand brawling so that the advantage changes within a moment between the opponents. He uses freeze-frame and super slow motion techniques to embellish most action sequences, letting the audience linger a bit in contrast to the fast pace of the film with its rapid-fire dialogue. He also uses a “visualization” technique during which Holmes “sees” how a fight or dangerous situation will play out. And, of course, there will be blood.
The film is rated PG-13, but there were a number of younger children in the preview audience. I wondered whether or not they would understand the quick speech and British accents, so I talked to three young lads (8, 9, and 11) who assured me that they understood everything and loved it. Guess I underestimated them! I don’t want to reveal any major plot points, so I’ll leave you with just two words to ponder: urban camouflage. I shall say no more.