“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”

MOVIE REVIEW: “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” stars Robert Downey Jr. (The Avengers [2012], The Judge), Jude Law (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Rhythm Section), Jared Harris (Mad Men [TV series], Pompeii), Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [2009]), Stephen Fry (Gosford Park, V for Vendetta), Paul Anderson (Legend, The Firm [2009]), Kelly Reilly (Eden Lake, True Detective [TV series]), Geraldine James (Arthur [2011], Alice in Wonderland [2010]), Eddie Marsan (The World’s End, Vera Drake), and Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls, Game Night). It is directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Wrath of Man), with the screenplay being written by Michele and Kieran Mulroney (Paper Man, Power Rangers [2017]).

Sherlock Holmes (Downey Jr.) enlists the help of his friend and former partner Dr. John Watson (Law) to track down and foil the plot of one Professor James Moriarty (Harris), whose mastermind is behind various crimes plaguing Europe.

There are very few instances where a sequel tops its predecessor. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is one of those instances.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are back as the classic detective duo, looking to face off against Holmes’ most iconic villain: Professor James Moriarty. He’s a mastermind; the evil equivolent of Holmes himself. Hunting this guy down will take a lot, and “Game of Shadows” puts in the work by offering more action, laughs, and thrills than the first movie before it.

I had immense fun with this, guys. For plenty of reasons. While Downey and Law had great chemistry in the first outing, their bond within this sequel is taken to another level. Law’s Dr. John Watson is set to get married, with Holmes acting as his best man. The continuation of their friendship (and resurrected partnership) is something to behold. I loved the dilemma they faced, particularly that of Watson, who can’t seem to catch a break or go on a proper honeymoon because of his affiliation with Holmes. Their journey and how it ties into the main conflict created a solid balance of tension and heart. This is clearly the time to develop the characters and their relationships (being how we were introduced to them in the first installment); Ritchie and his team do a bang-up job in just that.

Along with the characters, Ritchie’s direction is refined, with more action-packed sequences that showcase his unique insert sensibilities. I loved the moments that involved fast switches of shots, all given the illusion that they are of one most (or taken in one shot). The wood chase scene is iconic, and I adored the train sequence that involved Holmes dressing up as a woman (probably the biggest laugh they got from me). Everything is bigger, and thankfully the CGI is more polished. I loved the landscapes of this and location set-ups. Since we move forward in time, there are added elements that make things all the more fun, like Holmes owning one of the first automobiles. The goggles they wear to drive them are so hilarious and interesting, and I love the attention to detail when it comes to the historical element of this universe.

The journey itself holds plenty of fun and intrigue. Jared Harris as Moriarty is brilliant casting, and his stalemate with Holmes made for engaging material. There’s less of a dark arts element than the previous film, with this one focusing more on weaponry and politics. And though the mystery takes Holmes and Watson all over the place, the writers do a good job in making things feasible to keep up. Added to this roster is also Holmes’ brother, played by Stephen Fry. He served as a humorous tertiary character who aleviated any tension brought up. And that’s “Game of Shadows” greatest strength: an established tone. From the cinematography to the music to the performances to the direction, this is a well-rounded flick that fires on all cylinders.

As far as mystery adventures go, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” triumphs. It’s a fun, exciting ride that made me laugh. The team certainly found their voice and perfected their style that was established in the first outing. It’s a sequel worth watching; one that I find better than the original. FINAL SCORE: 92%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

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