Robert Downey Junior and Jude Law are back as the inseparable sleuth team Holmes and Watson in Guy Ritchie’s second Sherlock Holmes film, A Game of Shadows
A Game of Shadows sees Holmes investigating the omniscient Professor Moriarty, whose dirty dealings take him from Baker Street to snow-capped Europe, where anarchist bombings are puncturing the hearts of the cities.
Downey Junior is every inch the modern hero; absent are the monocle and deerstalker hat synonymous with the 1904 cartoon of the detective, replaced with a layer of stubble, a muscular physique and fighting skills more suited to the gypsy camp in Snatch (there is, incidentally, a scene in a French gypsy camp, but no fisticuffs ensue). A Game of Shadows is everything the first film was but more action/adventure: more explosions, more fights, and more running.
Some familiar faces pop up throughout, namely Steven Fry as Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft
, and Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress who played Lisbeth Salander in 2009’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
. Rapace brings the necessary girl presence in the film in Rachel McAdams’s absence - the trio race around Paris, Berlin and Switzerland, running through forests and jumping onto trains like a grown up Ron, Harry and Hermione, if they were Victorian muggles.
A Game of Shadows is not based on one particular Holmes story (of which there are four novels and 56 short stories), but draws inspiration from Conan Doyle's The Final Problem for the climatic scene at the Reichenbach Falls, and from The Valley of Fear for Moriarty’s character background. Mycroft’s character has not been written to push Fry’s acting abilities to the limit in any way; he brings a campness to the role which may or may not have been intended, particularly during the scene in which he delivers a telegram to Dr Watson’s new wife completely naked.
Ritchie’s foray into commercial blockbusters has worked rather well, and he has a wealth of storylines to choose from to keep Holmes solving crimes for as long as Downey Junior can believably play an all-singing, all-dancing detective who prefers train undercarriages to armchairs and adrenaline shots to pipe tobacco. A great festive family film, A Game of Shadows is easy to follow and enjoyable to watch.