Simon Dillon reviews the film

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

As a big fan of Sherlock Holmes in all its various incarnations and spin-offs (book, TV, film), I had been looking forward to Guy Ritchie's sequel to his 2009 hit immensely, and wasn't disappointed.

The story picks up from the first, with Watson (Jude Law) about to be married and Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) tidying up loose ends from the previous adventure. One such loose end is Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), but the film ultimately has little to do with her. Instead it largely concerns Holmes ultimate nemesis Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), and his Machiavellian schemes to bring about war in Europe so he can profit by selling arms and medical supplies. With Holmes pitting his wits against such a deadly adversary, he obtains help not only from the recently married Watson (in a particularly exciting and hilarious sequence on a train), but also from Gypsy fortune teller Madam Simza (Noomi Raplace), whose brother's involvement in an anarchist group provides the lead Holmes follows in an attempt to thwart Moriarty's schemes.

Ritchie's first Sherlock Holmes film looked terrible from the trailer, but turned out to be jolly good fun and largely in keeping with the spirit of the original text. This sequel is just as much fun, though it's admittedly less Conan Doyle and more James Bond at times (particularly in the spectacular and ludicrous action scenes). As with the previous film, A Game of Shadows isn't derived from any one Holmes story, but contains elements of a few - plus many embellishments of the filmmakers. But the overriding inspiration here is obviously The Final Problem, so fans will know exactly where this is headed (ie the inevitable and thrilling stand-off at the Reichenbach Falls).

Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law are both excellent in their respective roles, playing up the laughs and the buddy movie angle (I refuse to use the word "bromance" anymore). The rest of the cast are good, even though Eddie Marsan (reprising his role as Inspector Lestrade) barely appears and Kelly Reilly (as Watson's wife Mary) is given little to do but react to Steven Fry's hilarious nude scene (in a brilliant, hysterically funny supporting turn as Holmes eccentric brother Mycroft). But the best new addition is Jared Harris, who provides an immaculate, calculating, Schubert-singing, convincingly psychotic Moriarty.

On a technical level, this is first-rate stuff. Special effects are tremendous, the Art Direction/Set Design is suitably lavish and moody, and it all looks very expansive and will lose a lot of scale on TV. Hans Zimmer also builds on his score for the first film, contributing some fine new themes amid old ones.

Let's be clear: this is utter nonsense from start to finish, but it's very exciting, funny, well-acted and stylishly directed nonsense. Entertainment is not a dirty word, and A Game of Shadows has it in spades. In other words, it's ideal Christmas holiday viewing. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.