Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – tangible ones though !

If you fell in love with the Sherlock Holmes released in 2009,  you won’t be disappointed viewing this sequel.

If you haven’t watched the earlier one and/or not prepared to see the famed detective not just as a man of high reason but also as a man for all seasons, you may be taken aback by the apparent trivialisation and irreverence this movie abounds in. If you are only used to Mr.Holmes’ image as the one cast by  immaculately astute  Jeremy Brett, on popular  TV series in 80s, you’d be better advised to watch the first part of this movie on rent, to see if you can stomach this sequel !

In concluding scenes of the first movie, handcuffed Rachel McAdams speaks of her vanquished employer to Robert Downey Jr, almost as an eulogy, “Please don’t underestimate him. He’s just as brilliant as you are. And infinitely more devious“. Viewers are left with a sense of unfulfilled intrigue as to what further destruction was Moriarty capable of and would Holmes have quelled them too with equal aplomb ?  Guy Ritchie doesn’t make fans wait for too long and dishes out yet another artistically lavish, meanderingly fast, sumptuous sequel to indulge in ! 

In our largely despondent times, rife with economic contraction, rampant complacency and rueful accountability, to be time transported to high days of Victorian era (~1891), with glimpses on London Underground while it’s still being built, buttoned up men pursuing  science with infectious passion, a society on throes of life changing automotive speed comes in as a whiff of fresh air. As Paul Anderson (who plays Colonel Sebastian Moran, nearly the right hand of Moriarty)  alludes to a large stockpile of symmetrically arranged warheads as a place where science meets art, one can’t but be reminded if the director is trying to pat his own back. He has, after all, attempted precisely the same with the movie itself – art, science, wit and action thrown in equal measure !

The ride gathers momentum with the duo (Holmes and Watson) reaching Paris to unearth reasons for seemingly disconnected, but ominous episodes involving Professor Moriarty. From the moment Sherlock eases Mrs.Watson into a river from a running train, obviously to save her (!), there’s hardly a dull nano second. Sherlock Holmes has never been as actionesque in any portrayal so far,  his moves so fast that even scientists at CERN working on LHC may only marvel  but miss detecting. Mortal viewers like us, are, thankfully, offered slow motion preconstructions of his thoughts preceding action – expanding on the technique creatively used in the brawl knockout scene of the first movie. But, truth be told, even those re-enactments would seem too fast to comprehend for those still intent in knowing the big picture :-). For most viewers, by this time, it would all seem minor details that can wait; instead, keeping pace with  action,  including Sherlock’s tryst with mule ride in continental hinterland, men risking their lives against those with newer (now vintage!, fast-loading ammunitions would be more engrossing !

The background score by Hans Zimmer is as gripping as in the first movie, with rapturous violin pitches accentuating the already fast screenplay. Talking of which, those with artistic bent of mind won’t miss the beautifully recreated Paris garden scenes being quaintly reminiscent of  Édouard Manet’s impressionist paintings or of his contemporaries such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Anyone playing this movie from Blu-ray players onto large screen TVs can actually pause at many frames, sigh at their sheer beauty and dispatch A0 size printout command, as souvenirs for living room ! Though grandeur isn’t a new idea in period movies, some directors weave their distinct interpretation, and make period come alive, in sepia style timelessness, than just paint a backdrop to enact indoor opulence and decadence charade, in what’s come to be known, almost derogatorily, as costume dramas.

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Robert Downey Jr does a stellar job of ‘faster than neutrino‘  detective, who is at equal ease giving  fancy dress competitors – men and women alike, a run for their money! That his thinker-kicker credentials were firmly established in Iron Man franchise makes him a confident choice to reprise this role with absolute élan. Portraying a  self absorbed, maverick,  narcissistic genius with predictable foibles, who can also smile well, isn’t an easy task. It’s very hard to imagine who else could have managed to pull this role off, as convincingly ! Jude Law is called upon to provide professional expertise as a Dr. a couple of times before the movie finishes, while for most part, more as an able bodied accomplice, who just happens to share the same destiny ! However, even with such brief platonic remit, he does an excellent job in understated acting, with his incisive eyes conveying agony, exasperation and unspeakable grief than lofty dialogues. One does wish the mysterious Rachel McAdams, the lady who leaves Holmes smitten and vulnerable with her menacing smiles, could  grace more frames than Noomi Rapace did, who, though cast well as the gypsy Madam Simza Heron, somehow appears more burdened with purpose than is actually assigned! Kelly Reilly is more relaxed as Mrs.Watson, obviously allowed for better make up and screen presence than in first part, though meaningful tasks for her role continues to be in short supply.

With very little space for British characters such as  Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan, “inept inspector” – just a passing reference by Holmes) coupled with a never-ending parade of new characters every few minutes, viewers aren’t able to associate each with their unique sense of  quirkiness, much unlike the first part. For those looking forward to a gratuitous dose of British humour, unfortunately what’s on offer is a bit frugal and perhaps, more American !

Directors like Guy Ritchie risk being called disloyal to British style of movie making if they offer a feel good but less rooted film of this nature. However, if they craft a great British saga – deep, dark or classical – most people, critics included, might rather wait for the movie to come on telly than splurge cash to watch it on the big screen !

This movie, as much as its predecessor, is meant for international audience. If most relish the artistic expression, great music, excellent casting, witty script and the craftmanship, it’s a big win already. Should many of them also get interested in the genius of Sherlock Holmes, of course, even better 🙂

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2 Responses to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – tangible ones though !

  1. Jeremy Brett was a very masterly Holmes.

    Have you read the book “Bending the Willow: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes” by David Stuart Davies.

    This book is a recommended read for fans of Jeremy Brett.


  2. exerji says:

    Hi buddy2blogger,
    Many thanks for paying a visit here and for your suggestion. I haven’t read this or perhaps most of Sherlock Holmes books. Will aim to do so.

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