Published on May 1st, 2014 | by Clint Davis

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows [2011]

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows [2011] Clint Davis

Summary: Downey and Law bring chemistry to their roles but appear to be phoning it in, while great talents like Noomi Rapace and Jared Harris are underused. It's a fun outing but does this version of Holmes have anything left to offer us?



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PG-13  |  129 min.

Director: Guy Ritchie  |  Screenplay: Kieran Mulroney, Michele Mulroney (based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters)

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris

Studio: Village Roadshow Pictures, Silver Pictures  |  Distribution: Warner Bros. Pictures

Downey and Law bring a clear chemistry to their on-screen partnership, making for a fun watch.

Chemistry is a key component to any project’s success, be it a championship sports team, a great album, or a movie.  Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is worth two stars for the obvious chemistry between its two stars, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.  This sequel finds Holmes and Watson getting themselves into even more wacky situations, close calls with death, and a run-in with arch-villain Prof. Moriarty (Jared Harris).  Despite all this, you can’t help but feel the talented cast and crew, led by director Guy Ritchie, are simply spinning their wheels without really taking us anywhere new.

as a filmmaker, Ritchie (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) has always been as much about style as any recent director, and it’s no different here.  Like its predecessor, there are lots of striking slow-mo sequences and interesting camera work, including close-ups during overblown action sequences.  You don’t really need to have seen the first Holmes installment, but if you loved it you will likely feel the same way about A Game of Shadows…which goes the same way for people who disliked the first entry.  In fact, I have a feeling that if you didn’t see the first one, you’ll especially enjoy this outing because it will feel more fresh and exciting.

As the diabolical Prof. Moriarty, Jared Harris gives the film’s best performance.

A Game of Shadows is a by-the-books sequel in every possible way.  Holmes makes some off-color jokes that mildly annoy Watson, the two experiment with some futuristic gadgets, Holmes envisions kicking someone’s ass five seconds before actually doing it, and the pair go off to save the day–all in just under two hours!…oh wait, it’s over two hours long?!  This movie could have definitely used some trimming, especially with the number of twists and turns by the end–but don’t worry if you forget them along the way as flashbacks aid in explaining the final twists (which has to be the laziest device ever in movies).  Then again, I can’t complain much because I found the story to be confusing! Also, I still don’t quite understand why Holmes is able to see every move his opponent will make and still have enough time to narrate us through each step in a supposed split-second before the action commences.

…It’s best not to over think this one.

There is a very memorable passage in A Game of Shadows, though featuring a slow-motion run through the woods where the heroes are fleeing enemy gun & cannon fire.  Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot does some astounding work here in putting together a sequence that is the most original part of this film.  Sure, the picture has its share of heart-pumping moments but aside from this scene, the action is very repetitive.

This innovative sequence is the best, and most original part of the movie.

The cast is downright stacked with supporting turns from Jared Harris (Lincoln, TV’s Mad Men) and Noomi Rapace (The (original) Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), but I felt like they each could have been given so much more to work with.  This is especially true of Rapace as basically any actress could have played her part–which is a travesty for such a talented actress.

The bottom line with A Game of Shadows is that it sticks to the formula of Guy Ritchie’s first Sherlock Holmes outing, but I wonder if this franchise has anything fresh left to offer.

Buy Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on Amazon.

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About the Author

Clint Davis is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based journalist who dropped out of film school to write news! Email him at

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