If you are a died in the wool Sherlock Holmes fan and wince if Holmes actually wears a deerstalker in a movie (he never did in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories)– forget seeing Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows. If you want to see a well done, well acted, fun, funny movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, go see this movie.
Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as Holmes and Watson in this trip through late nineteenth century Europe picking up opera, gypsies, a steam driven car, German soldiers, most of the European Diplomatic Corps, and Holmes now gay, and sometimes nude brother, Mycroft, played to a ‘t’ by Stephen Fry.
I liked this movie. Was it great art? Well, no, but director Guy Richie created a beautiful motion picture with scenes of London, Paris and the Swiss Alps rivaling any you have seen. I particularly enjoyed the opera, tea at the Ritz, and full dress ball, complete with a waltz featuring Holmes and Watson dancing, with…each other.
One does begin to wonder a bit about the sexual preference of the world’s greatest detective after his appearing in drag, his foppish brother, and his dance partner. However our sensibilities are kept in check as he mourns his one true love, Irene Adler (Rachael McAdams.)
The story is a melange of Conan Doyle’s Holmes mixing Mycroft’s unknowable relationship with the British Government, Holmes’ penchant for disguise, his quick solutions based on the slightest evidence, and of course Professor James Moriarty, genius, villain, chess master, and, it turns out, professor at Cambridge. (As one reviewer noted, ‘the wonders of tenure.’) Jared Harris of Mad Men fame underplays the evil one.
The original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace, joins our heroes as they attempt to keep a smouldering Europe from exploding in to war. She is a fortune teller, a gypsy, and happens to be the sister of a henchman of Moriarty’s. She also knows all the back roads across borders and is seemingly impervious to bullets.
Downey’s Sherlock is the antithesis of the stern, humorless Holmes played on television by Jeremy Brett. He is funny, witty, and not above a bit of self deprecation as he forgets Watson’s bachelor party, tosses his sidekick’s new bride off a moving train, ends up on a Shetland Pony (“I hate horses — dangerous at both ends”) and fades into the upholstery in the good doctor’s office.
The one distraction is Richie’s penchant for stop action. Bullets stop in mid air, explosions halt just before bodies are lifted off the ground, and we see the internal workings of a rifle, cannon, and pistol. I think it was supposed to be a Hitchcockian technique to raise the suspense, but come on, we all know what happens when a firing pin hits a cap at the rear of a cartridge. No mystery there.
The story is as timeless as the good detective himself – good over evil, a case of do or die, and the ultimate sacrifice for one’s friend.
Can this possibly be the last of this franchise? It does end at Reichenbach Fall after all.