On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
by NIR SHALEV
Sherlock Holmes (2009) is a terrific, fun film that I’ve watched several times (actually, more than I’d like to admit). It has one crucial thing that it does right: it makes you feel like you’re watching Sherlock Holmes at home and at work. The story isn’t based on any of the Conan Doyle stories but does contain several characters that were plucked from the canon, which would be recognizable to die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans. It’s also very much a Guy Ritchie film. His version of Sherlock Holmes takes place in the popularized Guy Ritchie universe, what with several martial arts bouts thrown in here and there; the camera, excitingly alternating between slow motion and regular speeds; and Robert Downey Jr. playing the famous detective as if suffering from ADD. Oh, and also he’s an alcoholic.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is very similar to its predecessor in that its atmosphere, costumes, and sets look almost identical; Holmes is still slightly bonkers; and there are more martial arts bouts to behold. But what the sequel does is take everything that we’ve seen in the first film and crank it up to 11. As a result it’s an even more entertaining film, and a darker one too.
At the film’s start we see, and hear via narration, that Dr. John Watson (Jude Law, reprising his role) is typing up some of the adventures that he and Holmes had been on and is making a small career out of it. Suddenly, his narration is interrupted by a random explosion that takes place somewhere on the streets of London. Sherlock’s newest and deadliest enemy then emerges: Professor Moriarty (Jarred Harris). If Holmes is Superman than Moriarty is Lex Luthor, with the great exception that these antagonists are intellectual equals.
That aspect of Moriarty frightens Holmes and he seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown throughout the entire film. But don’t let that get you down or bother you. In the original story, “The Final Problem”, Holmes was also losing his mind due to the frightening and exciting aspect of squaring off in a battle of wits with his intellectual equal. He’d never encountered a person as brilliant before. Downey Jr. performs that aspect of Holmes very convincingly (the ADD is intentional). Jarred Harris’ Moriarty is also excellent; calm and composed most of the time, and sinister and frightening when he needs to be.
Holmes and Watson travel through several different countries, at one point joined by a gypsy (Noomi Rapace) whose brother may or may not be working for Moriarty. What is Moriarty’s plan? Why did the heroes travel through Europe and end up in Switzerland? And will Holmes and Moriarty lock fists in a ridiculously awesome final showdown that cannot be explained and has to be seen? I won’t answer the first two questions but the answer to the third one is yes.
A Game of Shadows was shot in the digital medium but makes terrific use of the camera’s handle of HD textures. It was also shot in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, which is very, very widescreen. I mention this because the end product immerses the audience in the world that Guy Ritchie has concocted for our loony/genius hero and his gang. We recognize the geographical settings as real world places, and attention to period detail also helps us feel like we’re physically present. Whether escaping from a barrage of bullets and cannon shells in a forest or traversing mountain paths and hills we feel like we’re with our heroes and we’re happy to be there. We feel the rumbling of the explosions that they avoid and the punches and kicks that they dish out and it’s a terrific good time.
I wouldn’t mind if Guy Ritchie was to make another 20 films with this cast, these characters, and the terrific special effects and CGI crews. The first film was fun and cool and this film is even more fun and even cooler. It’s also darker in tone, as it should be, and no one breaks out of character. However, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, as after all it’s based on a fictitious detective who contains an almost supernatural set of instincts and brilliant deductions. Just sit back and enjoy the show. I know that the cast and crew most certainly did.
The Blu-ray version contains Maximum Movie Mode, A Game of Shadows Movie App, and Focus Points.
Other new releases this week: Ghost Rider:Spirit of Vengeance, In Darkness, A Little Bit of Heaven, Thin Ice, Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds