Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows (2011)

What a ride! Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows has Robert Downey Jr. channeling the more manic aspects of the popular fictional detective, with Jude Law back as the capable and sometimes comedic Dr. Watson. The stakes are higher this time -- a mastermind is manipulating European nations towards all-out war, and "the collapse of Western civilization" is sure to result if he is not stopped! "No pressure," Holmes says flippantly.

The fight scenes, mind games, and cool 1890's weaponry stand out in this sequel. The villain also shines. Jared Harris plays Professor Moriarty as a cool, evil man; or, as Holmes puts it, a morally insane narcissist. Oh, snap! Moriarty, Holmes' archenemy in the short story, outwits Holmes so many times that the outcome of their game is always in doubt. In 1893's "The Final Solution," Moriarty is written as Holmes' intellectual equal, which director Guy Ritchie shows to spectacular effect in a tense scene toward the end of the film.

The main difference between the written word and the big screen version? GUNS! EXPLOSIONS! BIGGER GUNS! BIGGER EXPLOSIONS! CROSS-DRESSING! HILARIOUS ANTICS! VERY SHINY MINOR CHARACTERS! Stephen Fry lights up the screen as Holmes' big brother Mycroft, and Noomi Rapace aka the original gal with the big ol' dragon tattoo is a butt-kicking fortune-teller: "I see you being served in the near future, assassin! PALM TO THE FACE!" (Note: that only happened in my mind.)

In the end, Moriarty's Grand Evil Scheme seems pretty simple (assassinations + bombings + devious company purchases = world domination mwa ha haaa), but of course, the good guys need evidence to convict him. The movie is about Holmes' dogged efforts to end Moriarty, one way or another. And boy, does he ever.

This movie is an enjoyable ride, especially since the set designs are immaculate. And if, like me, you enjoy watching people outrun bullets and missiles in slow motion, you better get your bum in a theater seat.

Recommended!