Having anticipated that A Game of Shadows was going to turn out inferior to its prequel, I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
Not holding back, a major character from the last film is killed off soon after the introduction of Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) as the main antagonist of Shadows. We knew that Moriarty would have a presence in this film after the hints at the end of the last one, but I initially thought it might’ve done his character some good to have been kept in the shadows (pun intended) just a little longer. His pace-friendly revelation was nonetheless a shrewd move by director Guy Ritchie, who was absent of any other strong antagonist after Lord Henry Blackwood’s demise in the previous film.
Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law resume their roles as Holmes and Watson, respectively, their chemistry having not missed a beat in between instalments. Their exchanges were perhaps made all the more entertaining with the inclusion of Stephen Fry as Holmes’s brother Mycroft.
What I enjoyed most about this Game were the scenes between its two main players. A subdued tension accompanied the first meeting between Holmes and Moriarty, growing exponentially with each subsequent encounter to the point of engulfing their final duel (played to a most fitting cliche of a chess game). Their status as genuine nemeses was most shown in their anticipations of how their final fistfight might’ve ended, both having equal fighting prowess and equal genius with which to use it.
At the risk of spoiling an experience, I have to say I was a little disappointed when Holmes was revealed to have survived the climax. Had he and Moriarty really perished at the conclusion of their fight, it would’ve been a fitting end to two counterparts on opposing sides and would not have done any damage to their characters at all. My respect for Mr Ritchie’s artistic vision (and testicular fortitude) would have soared tremendously. Alas, he and his producers probably have investors and studio executives to answer to, so Holmes (and quite obviously, Moriarty) lived to see Part 3.
Production-wise, my compliments must go out to Philippe Rousselot for some good cinematography, Hans Zimmer for his brilliant music as always and, most notably, James Herbert for his exemplary editing.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Producers: Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey & Dan Lin
Screenwriters: Kieran Mulroney, Michele Mulroney & Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams