Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS
Director: Guy Ritchie
Where to start, when there's so much more to say than there's space for?
Guy Ritchie's not the most obvious place, but an appropriate one nevertheless, because on this evidence his skills as a director are growing in leaps and bounds. Obviously those skills are allowed to flourish by the production wizardry of Susan Downey, brilliant writing and standout special effects and stuntwork, but it's Ritchie's name on the final credit.
Arguably his greatest asset in this project, though, is a peerless cast. Not only is there a continuation, indeed progression, of the incredible chemistry between Robert Downey Jr, as Arthur Conan Doyle's fabled detective, and Jude Law as Dr Watson, but a trifecta of stunning additions to the cast list makes this film that much better than its 2009 predecessor.
Mark Strong was brilliant as the darkly evil Lord Homewood in the first movie, but our first introduction to the twisted genius of Professor James Moriarty takes things on some way in A Game of Shadows. Jared Harris, son of the late Richard, whose career to date has been played out primarily in independent movies, manages to effect just the right levels of charm, guile and under-the-surface psychosis in a breakthrough performance.
It's hard to believe that Noomi Rapace, star of the popular Swedish language versions of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, was apparently the ninth actor considered for the role of the gypsy Madam Simza Heron, a one-time affiliate of the French Anarchist movement, which is central to the movie's plot. She seems born to it.
And just for good measure, there's Stephen Fry, who is superb as Holmes' foppish but highly placed brother Mycroft, who calls him Sherly and reveals more of himself than we might expect.
The story revolves around instability in Europe, particularly between France and Germany, in 1891, which Moriarty seeks to exploit for his own purposes, a situation that naturally draws in Holmes, the only man in Europe with a comparable intellect. Their battle of wits is particularly compelling viewing in the context of a thoroughly compelling movie.
The Timaru Herald