Friday, December 16, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

  I'm a big fan of what Guy Ritchie did with Holmes in 2009. It practically reinvented the character entirely. Giving him a witty, gritty, and action packed makeover, leaving the catchphrase and the deerstalker hat in the dust. I don't think many were complaining. A sequel was obviously... inevitable.  Insert catchphrase here.

  The trailers for A Game of Shadows promised the same witty dynamic between Watson, (Jude Law) and the eponymous Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and obviously lots of Guy Ritchian action.  Well, that was only part of what made the first so good and ultimately endearing.  If they abandoned all the heart of Holmes and just crammed it full of more action, I was going to be sorely dissapointed. Even though I love what he's done, I'm the guy still pining for a Ralph Fiennes or a Hugh Laurie Holmes that would be a clever slow burn drama/mystery. Amazingly, Ritchie amps up the action and excitement to a blazingly hot level, and STILL manages to preserve, if not build upon, everything else that made the previous one so damn good.

  It could just be me, but, the opening ten minutes felt off to me.  It felt kind of awkward, out of touch, and rushed. I was already anticipating the worst.  However... very shortly afterwards, the movie immediately finds its stride and opens into a breakneck pace that pretty much never slows down.  Quiet moments between Holmes and Watson behaving and bonding like brothers, are always riding the coattails of a brilliantly executed action set piece. Theres style and flair in these action scenes and lots of character and heart in the quieter moments. Just like the last one, this one is incredibly and expertly stylized, and then some. The fights are carefully calculated and narrated step by step in Holmes' mind before he executes it in reality. These exceedingly clever moments have already become a welcome trademark of Ritchie's Sherlock.  But whats a sequel if it doesn't bring some freshness to an established formula? There are some really clever twists regarding those moments of careful calculation thrown in there.

  The wit, is wittier. The plot, is thicker. The humor, is funnier. The action, is slicker. Any rough edges the previous film may have had, have all been smoothed out now. Guy Ritchie is only on number two and I have a feeling he could do this blindfolded again and again. Its awesome watching it all unfold.We know the characters, and they slip back into the swing of things as if they had never left.  We expect it to be more. And it delivers it all in the best ways possible.  Every person cast, is perfectly cast. From Stephen Fry as Mycroft, Sherlock's brother, to Noomi Rapace as the fiery gypsy Madam Simza, to Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty.  Its hard to see anyone match Downey's manic genius as Holmes' but Harris as Moriarty is the perfect counterpoint to Sherlock. They match wits in a big dangerous game, and at times they're clearly the only ones who really know what is going on. Its a massive chess game. As it should be and these are the two cunning players operating at a level that flies about everyone else's heads.
And for once... Holmes has met his match.

  There are moments of perfection in the movie, where you can see it eclipsing the last one entirely. These moments left me breathless and aren't in the least spoiled by anything, namely trailers, you've seen thus far.  The movie comes to close with an awesome climax that fits excellently in everything we know and love about Holmes.

  In total, seeing this today has been one of the best theater-going experiences I've had in years. Lots of pure fun and genuine entertainment. Some may be put off by the relentless pacing or Sherlock's escalated antics, but I find it welcome and exciting.  I can't think of any serious complaints about this one. Certain moments feel disconnected and out of touch with the rest of the movie, but these moments are brief, fleeting and not worth fussing over.  I loved A Game of Shadows much more than I expected to. Its an exhilarating return to the world of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. And while I do belive his rendition of Holmes, so to speak, is not the ideal or definitive version, but it certainly makes for an excellent blockbuster popcorn movie.

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