Holmes really is where the heart is

For those of you expecting to watch the sleuth in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels come to life in the second instalment of Sherlock Holmes should stay away from Guy Ritchie’s latest film.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 25th December 2011, 12:30 pm

But for those who wants a thoroughly entertaining film, full of action-packed scenes and some brilliant acting should get themselves along to the nearest cinema.

After the box-office success of 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, filmmakers must have been pressed to find a way to up the ante this time around.

Nonstop action, a possible world war and cross-dressing are indeed the answer.

In A Game of Shadows, with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law once again taking on their roles as Holmes and Watson, the filmmakers have got close to another smash hit film but further away from Conan Doyle’s vivid imagination.

The film’s villain, Moriarty, and his climactic fight with Holmes are all that remain of Conan Doyle’s short story, The Final Problem.

Robert Downey Jr plays the detective in a brilliantly eccentric manner, and I must agree with one reviewer who likened him to Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates Of The Caribbean films.

Not that this mattered. I thoroughly enjoyed every second that Downey Jr was on screen.

As the film opens - where chapter one ended - Watson is paying a visit to his occasional partner in solving crimes.

His wedding to Mary (Kelly Reilly) is fast approaching and Holmes is to be his best man.

The film begins with the bachelor party Holmes throws at an eccentric gentleman’s club, in which none of Dr Watson’s friends show up but two new characters do — Stephen Fry as Holmes’ brother, Mycroft, and a Gypsy fortuneteller Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace).

Holmes has had a chance encounter with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) who is clearly over her head in something that involves Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) and now Madam Simza seems to be tied up in his schemes too.

Dr Watson continues to try to leave his former colleague to pursue a life of marital bliss but inevitably becomes embroiled in the fight against Moriarty.

Mary (Kelly Reilly) and Dr Watson have barely said I do before speeding trains, speeding bullets, major arms movements and complex action sequences overtake things.

Moriarty is planning to engineer World War One some 23 years early by using anarchists to blow up French and German dignitaries in such ways to annoy both countries and create conflict.

And Moriarty, who is already a successful professor, does this because he is an arms dealer - and wants what any good villain wants, as much money as possible.

If there is one aspect of A Game of Shadows that really shines and captivates the audience, it is the cinematography. Around the action set pieces, it was the one thing that kept me gripped to the film and an aspect I really enjoyed.

Director Guy Ritchie is clearly not afraid to change the speed of the camera - accelerating film when it’s needed as well as slowing it down.

The new characters in this film couldn’t be more opposite. Although Rapace appears in many scenes, she is given little of substance to do.

But on the other hand, Fry is simply superb as Holmes’ quirky older brother - and should have been in more scene in my eyes.

Anyone expecting the second instalment of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes to be nowhere near as good as the first will be wrong - a thoroughly enjoyable film from start to end.

By Sam Chetwynd