VOD film review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
James R | On 30, May 2018
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace
Watch Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Bringing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law back together to play Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is the kind of move that would be described by even the most casual movie fan as a “no-brainer”. The pair’s on-screen chemistry brought wit, humour and a lively spark of action to Arthur Conan Doyle’s detecting duo in 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, and A Game of Shadows sees them ease even more comfortably into their roles.
Law’s Watson remains sensible, smart and loyal, with a nice line in blustering stupefaction at his partner’s ludicrous antics. But, crucially, he’s a generous screen presence, which allows Downey Jr.’s Holmes to continue skewing closer to James Bond than the deerstalker-wearing sleuth of the books, without going overboard. Together, they’re more comfortable in action sequences than in lengthy scenes of deduction, and, while Sherlock’s apparent fighting abilities and physical prowess aren’t exactly canon, the pair treat things with a lightness of touch that ensures it never really rankles; it’s simple too enjoyable to see them action.
While this might become over-the-top in a sequel that strives for spectacle over subtle intelligence, A Game of Shadows’ strength is the way it balances out all this mayhem with the introduction of a crucial new player: one Professor James Moriarty. Jared Harris is perfectly cast in the role, bringing a calculating intimidation to the part with a ratty arrogance, a cruel cunning and – yes – a professorial authority.
There’s a case to solve, of course, which warrants our heroes to race from Strasbourg to London to France and farther afield, but screenwriters Michele and Kieran Mulroney keep things rooted in the game of chess – figurative and literal – that unfolds between Holmes and his nemesis. The Reichenbach Falls features, of course, and seeing the two intellects go head-to-head at their climactic showdown is a genuine thrill. (It’s a shame that the weight given to their interactions doesn’t also apply to a wasted Rachel McAdams, who’s brilliant as Irene Adler, and Noomi Rapace, who doesn’t get much to do as a stereotypical fortune teller Madam Simza.)
But for all the pizazz its central trio of men bring, the star of the show is undoubtedly Guy Ritchie, whose swaggering confidence at the helm is what gives this sequel its propulsive energy. He overdoes it, at times, with the visual representation of Sherlock’s mind-mapping machinations, but it’s a treat to witness him going full-pelt with a Hollywood budget, with one slow-motion-but-not sequence in a forest a visually stunning feat. Ritchie deftly mixes 1890s optimism with 21st-century blockbusting, while Han Zimmer’s playful score, which moves from jangling banjo and cimbalom to nodding at Mozart and Morricone when the mood requires, underscores the mood. The game’s afoot, and the important thing, this sequel tells us, is to have fun with it.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription. It is also available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.