“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” Movie Review

     Director Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” gives us a lot of the same elements that made the 2009 film successful.  It’s not a complete rehash though as there is a new story here and the Holmes character is expanded as he works a new case against a new adversary.  Since you can certainly expect more of these films, I would think they will all fall in line the way this one does.  “Game of Shadows” feels episodic, as if once the case is solved, Holmes will simply move on to the next.  If Game of Shadows is successful than these Holmes films could spawn a franchise that will go on for years to come.

     As Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. has characterized him in much the same way Johnny Depp has done with the Jack Sparrow character.  He’s created a persona the current generation will always know him by, even more so than his character in the “Iron Man” films and it really works well.  I feel Downey’s portrayal of Holmes is easily his best film role to date.  One of the best aspects of his performance is how well he and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) compliment each other in every scene.  Their comic banter is the highlight of the film.

     “Game of Shadows” sports a worthy opponent for Holmes with the villainous Professor James Moriarty (Jarad Harris).  It seems the best villains are those who can not only match the hero physically, but also mentally and in this case academically.  When Holmes and Moriarty first meet, they reluctantly shower each other with compliments and a constant show of respect.  The way the scene is acted, you realize the niceties are being said by both men as more of a distraction as they study each other’s many nuances in person for the first time.  Later in the film, you’ll find out the fact the meeting takes place in Moriarty’s office definitely gives Holmes an advantage in the observation game.

     Whereas, the first Holmes film seemed to be packed with numerous action sequences and elaborate action set pieces, Game of Shadows relies more on the cleverness of the investigation and the unraveling of the various mysteries surrounding the plot of the film.  As a result, rather than constantly seeing Richie’s signature super slow motion fight scenes, you see a much more talky film that is composed mainly of intellectual dialogue  This isn’t a bad thing, but it may not be expected if you’ve seen any of the film’s advertising or are a big fan of the first film.  If you thought the 2009 film was a bit brainless, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

     Ultimately, Game of Shadows is a chess game played both literally and figuratively on screen.  For every move Moriarty makes, Holmes never seems to be without a well thought out counter and Ritchie’s visual telling of these moves on screen shows off the director’s incredible skill in this genre.  Though quite eccentric, Holmes is thought of in literary circles as being a man of intelligence.  Here you get the guy with the keen sense of what’s coming next, yet you also get a guy who’s a solid detective and is capable to go head to head with the greatest criminal minds of his time.  My preference would be that Richie continue with the style, mood, and story structure he’s used here in Game of Shadows as it seems to have created a well defined action/mystery that is both crowd pleasing and smart at the same time. GRADE: B