Monday, 23 April 2012

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (2011)

I had the opportunity to catch the Sherlock Holmes sequel approximately three months after it premiered in America, thanks to the long wait that people living in Japan must endure while films go through the tumultuous process required to prepare them for foreign markets. Wow, that was a long sentence!

The sequel takes place a short time after the original. Not much has changed, really: Holmes is still chasing after Moriarty, Irene Adler is still acting as Moriarty’s agent, and Watson is still planning on marrying Mary Morstan. However, this film is the cumulative battle of wits between the famed detective and his arch-nemesis, so things kick into high gear and Holmes and Watson are reunited.

What follows is an enigmatic tour across Europe, where Holmes tries to uncover what sort of insidious plan Moriarty’s recent atrocities have been leading up to. I won’t spoil it for you, but like the first film some leaps of faith are required in order to tie everything together. In addition to seeing Moriarty’s face for the first time, Holmes works with a new female co-star, Noomi Rapace as a gypsy named Simza. Her destiny is intertwined with that of the protagonists.

Director Guy Ritchie follows up on the cinematic conventions from the first film, including Holmes’ special style of pre-planning his battles, by adding some interesting techniques to the mix. There is a very powerful scene that takes place in a forest, Holmes fleeing bullets and bombs, that I doubt you have seen the like of before. Intermingled slow-motion, exaggerated sound effects, and a variety of other features made each fight something unique and memorable. It’s only a shame that the story has to suffer as a result.

It’s true, the action starts almost immediately and most of the film turns into a giant chase scene, Holmes employing any and all means of transportation to follow his foe across country borders. Between gunfights and fistfights, there is little time to develop a rapport between the classic rivals. Actor Jared Harris gives Moriarty a strong performance that makes his lack of screen time seem inconsequential, though.

This film stands out as a blockbuster with strong, if shoehorned, action scenes and a narrative that shows the proper way to build a sequel upon the fountain of a successful origin film. If you’ve seen the first one, you won’t be disappointed by the second. If you haven’t seen the first one, you may be in over your head.

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