Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
Better than Average
Action Adventure Crime Mystery Thriller Comedy Drama Adaptation
2 hr. 8 min.
Year of Release:
December 16, 2011 (wide—3,600+ theaters)
DVD: June 12, 2012
An explosion in London is quickly ascribed to anarchists, but the inimitable detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) knows something more is afoot.
What appears as random acts of terror, he deduces are unquestionably linked to his greatest nemesis, the mysterious Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris).
Agreeing to one last case on the night of his marriage is Dr. Watson (Jude Law) who, together with a clue supplied by Holmes” sometimes paramour and temptress/rival Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) finds them hurtling inexorably towards a confrontation with the only man who may be Holmes” equal, as Moriarty schemes to plunge the world into war.
The duo will need to enlist the aid of a gypsy named Simza (Noomi Rapace), as clues take them from London, on board a train rigged to be a “wedding gift” death trap courtesy of Moriarty, to Paris and wherever else the trail leads them. But this time, as Moriarty might say, just who is the cat and who is the mouse?
Violence: Moderate. The violence is constant and not limited to explosions from a distance, but up-close knife wounds, poisonings, shootings, assassination and an extended torture scene with a type of grappling hook embedded in Sherlock’s shoulder. As with its 2009 predecessor “Sherlock Holmes”, there is an extended action scene shown in extreme slow motion, ala “The Matrix,” where you get to see people hurt amidst gunfire and explosions. Throughout all this, blood is kept to a minimum, and there is no gore. The camera does not overly dwell on these scenes and, thankfully, cuts away during a suicide.
Sex/Nudity: Mild to Moderate. Holmes takes Watson to a club where the entertainment includes a modest fan dance, while other women are on swings dressed in bulbous corsets and underwear, though, I must add, nothing overt is shown. So what pushed the film from “mild” to “moderate” really was the scene where Holmes” brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) walks around in his castle nude. Though we only see him from the lower waist on up, Mary Watson is visibly uncomfortable. It is a non-sexual scene, obviously played for laughs, as it highlights the elder Holmes” eccentricity. Mycroft casually comments that he can see how Watson may appreciate someone of “her gender,” suggesting that he is either homosexual or entirely non-sexual. His obliviousness leaves this open for interpretation.
Language: Minor. Holmes makes several references that are more double entendrés than outright innuendos, such as Watson gaining weight “no doubt feasting on Mary’s muffins” and the strongest line delivered is when Holmes off handedly suggests Watson will have “…a good old fashioned romp, tonight.” During a battle scene, Holmes, poorly disguised as a woman, tells his friend, “Lie down with me, Watson” but one gets the feeling that he phrased this intentionally and is part of the friendly banter they share, and nothing more.
Watson shouts “Bast__ds” several times (Holmes once), and Mary says both “God” and “Oh my G__” during the same scene. At a gypsy camp, Holmes asks Watson not to dance “for God’s sake.” God’s name is never used in an intentionally profane manner.
Male/Female role modeling—The night club has waitresses dressed as men acting purposefully manlike and, though brief, this deserves mention.
Gambling and drunkenness is also prominently displayed at the night club, but neither is glorified.
The partnership that Holmes and Watson enjoy is definitely more of a lifelong relationship than Watson would care to admit. The remnants of sibling rivalry that still shows between Holmes and his elder brother does not compare with what Sherlock has with Watson, giving life to the proverb:
Professor Moriarty is the consummate villain, manipulating everything to achieve his goals. His pride is shown early, when he has lunch with a victim who believes themself safe in a public restaurant, only to find that, at Moriarty’s command, everyone simply leaves, foretelling her impending doom.
What kind of “acute narcissist” (Holmes’ words) goes to all that trouble, just to impress someone, already consigned to die, of his power? Through the course of the film, we see that Moriarty has done everything on the list of things the Lord hates from Proverbs.
Moriarty has convinced himself that he is only taking advantage of situations that would happen anyway and tries to dismiss it when he tells Holmes that, “You’re not fighting me, so much as you’re fighting the human condition.” This echoes precisely the message that the world feeds us daily, in so many different ways. How many times have we heard that “we can’t help ourselves”, “it’s just natural to _____” (fill in the blank) and excuse it for that very reason?
The Bible shows us time after time that God understands us better than we know ourselves, and that is why Jesus came, to offer us the only way out of our nature and to be heirs in Heaven. As the apostle Paul tells us:
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing” —Romans 7:18-19.
Paul later exclaims,
One of the crucial differences between good and evil is in the way we live and die. The first martyr of the church was Stephen who, while being stoned to death was at peace and so much more than that.
Contrast this to the way evil violent men often meet their end, kicking and screaming. There are many deaths in this movie, but, I thought, one scene in particular exemplified this most profoundly and gave me, and I hope the audience, pause to consider.
One of the most talked about effects in the first “Sherlock Holmes movie (2009) was how Holmes would think out and plan a whole battle before it took place, and then it would happen, exactly as he planned it. This is again used very effectively in the sequel, to everyone’s enjoyment. Less featured in this film is the forensic science Detective Holmes employs in order to learn from clues. Perhaps director Guy Ritchie felt that a now established character, with investigative bona fides firmly in place, did not need the same painstaking detective work. However, as a longtime Sherlock Holmes fan, I sorely missed the “real-time” work. Easily half of his investigation takes place in flashback form, so they are not entirely absent, just recalled later, I suspect mainly for effect.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is a thrilling, thoroughly enjoyable action packed film, outstandingly scored by Hans Zimmer, that I enthusiastically recommend (with some cautions) and is sure to please audiences and keep the franchise going. Of course, the violence and the off-putting scene with Holmes” brother unfortunately merit keeping the kids away.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
Prequel: “Sherlock Holmes” (2009)
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
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