Monday, December 26, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Genre: Action/Adventure, Mystery, Suspense,
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs. 8 min.
Release date: December 16, 2011

*Spoiler Alert*

Summary: Ritchie's latest Sherlock Holmes installment begins with a brief reunion between Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his love interest, Irene Adler (a cameo by Rachel McAdams), a quick introduction to Holmes’ arch nemesis, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), and the return of Holmes' partner, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law). Watson has come back to London to marry long-time girlfriend, Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), and although Holmes has conveniently forgotten about the impending nuptials, he remembers to take every opportunity to protest them. That same night under the guise of Watson’s stag, Holmes attempts to unearth further clues regarding Moriarty’s criminal activities and ends up gaining the group an additional member— Madame Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), a gypsy whose family connections are directly related to the conspiracy. Holmes soon comes face to face with Moriarty where his opponent warns him that, despite his request, Watson and his new bride will not be spared from the impending violence. In order to protect the unsuspecting couple, Holmes secretly accompanies them on their honeymoon— then quickly removes Mary from the equation (in a surprising and amusing fashion). This act saves Mary’s life, but more importantly, it gains Holmes what he most desperately desires— another adventure with Watson (sans his new wife). This journey takes them across Europe, uncovering a plot to thrust the continent into a war with Moriarty producing the materials in which to do so.

Performances: With his perfectly timed wit and polished physical style, Downey has truly settled into the role of Sherlock Holmes. Law’s Watson was much more exciting the second time around and the rapport between the two actors operated like a well oiled machine.

Harris’ sedate performance did little to demonstrate the complex relationship between Moriarty and Holmes, but fortunately Downey’s skillful execution clearly illustrated the repressed anger, extreme competitiveness, and respectful admiration both men felt toward one another.

Rapace is a pleasure to watch (and much more exciting than Rachel McAdams’ lackluster delivery of Irene), but the strength of this actress’ abilities ends up being a bit of a problem. The part of Sim was a small role, (the purpose of which seemed only to serve as a witness to Holmes and Watson’s adventures and witty banter), and although Rapace played the part well, one could feel the stifling of energy caused by the attempt to squeeze such a powerful presence into such an insignificant role.

Other Considerations: The movie contains beautiful costumes and set pieces, but you never stay in any one place long enough to appreciate them. The film is also about thirty minutes too long due to Ritchie’s attempts to slow every action down to a near standstill (even those that are not part of Holmes’ intellectual calculations) and to pack every insignificant detail into the plot. When the filmmakers do attempt to slow the movie down with the intention of presenting a sentimental or pivotal moment, they switch gears too abruptly, stunting the audience's building reaction and resulting in anticlimactic finishes.

The final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty was arguably the finest scene in the film and the one that best exemplifies what the rest of the movie ought to have been like. This clever scene demonstrated the way in which these two comparably brilliant individuals could easily predetermine the move that the other would make, thereby rendering any tangible participation in a competition futile.

Final Wrap: This movie was highly entertaining as far as action films go, but it seems to have missed the mark on many occasions. Sequels are understandably required to raise the stakes higher than those of the films that preceded them, however, adding excess action and information solely for the purpose of eliciting a fleeting response from the audience serves only to muddle the story’s more essential components. There were several elements missing from the first Sherlock Holmes, so it should have come as no surprise that its sequel would also be lacking. But going into a movie with low expectations does not make a film's deficiencies any less disappointing— especially when it clearly possesses the potential to be so much more.

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