Robert Downey, Jr. returns as the incomparable Sherlock Holmes in 'A Game of Shadows' and this time around goes head to head against his arch rival, Professor Moriarty. With the most important case of his career about to unfold, Holmes must use every ounce of intelligence and ingenuity he has to solve a mystery that leaves the fate of Western civilization hanging in the balance.
The movie literally begins with a bang as a series of bombings ignites tensions between France and Germany and fears of a looming war begin to escalate. Always having an inside track on untangling webs of conspiracies and revealing hidden schemes, Holmes is determined to uncover Moriarty as the instigator of these intolerable atrocities and show the world that this otherwise respected scholar is out to profit from a war he is covertly creating.
During a face to face meeting between the two rivals, Moriarty warns Holmes to undo any plans he has on stopping his crusade or he will be destroyed. Holmes requests that his trusted companion Watson be removed from the equation due to his recent marriage, but Moriarty will not agree to remove any pieces from the proverbial chess board unless he is the one causing their demise. This sets Holmes on a course of action to not only stop Moriarty from achieving his goal, but to also protect his friends in the process.
With the Sherlock Holmes movies, director Guy Ritchie combines a distinct visual style with a frenetically paced brand of the story telling that grabs hold of the audience and doesn't let go until the credits begin to roll. This is truly an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that barely ever slows down to let you catch a breath and, even when it does, there is still more than enough humor and cleverly inventive dialog to keep things moving along nicely.
If you are looking for an exact interpretation of the classic Holmes novels, you will not find it here. What you will find is the wit and intelligence of the famous character thrown in to a more stylized adventure scenario more in the vein of a Pirates of the Caribbean. The action is intense and, at times, a bit over the top but there is just enough suspension of reality to keep you from feeling like it is being pushed too far over the edge.
The additions of Jared Harris as Moriarty and Noomi Rapace as Madam Simza are perfectly weaved in to a cast that is already filled with stars and each show an ability to hold their own with strong performances. It was interesting to see another side of Ms. Rapace as she is most known for her stunning performance in the 2009 original version of 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' and its sequels.
If you are a fan of the first installment of this franchise, you will find no reason not to like this one as well. The story picks up right where the last one left off and you can tell there is a comfort level in both the actors and the film makers that allows for some really fun moments to be had between the characters.
The banter between Holmes and Watson is most entertaining as their differing viewpoints often clash even as they have an intimate understanding of one another as only best friends can. Without this chemistry between the actors, this would have been a much lesser film, but Downey and Law really step up and you can tell they are having a great time with these roles.
With great character interaction, intelligently written dialog, and lots of fast paced action sequences, 'A Game of Shadows' is a very welcome addition to what will hopefully be a series that we can continue to enjoy for years to come.