Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows


Faster, funnier and even more bromantic than the original

Lie down with me, Watson!” beseeches a bare-chested Robert Downey Jr. to Jude Law midway through Guy Ritchie’s follow-up to his 2009 Conan Doyle makeover. Hmm: is Britain’s most celebrated literary sleuth about to swap 221b Baker Street for Brokeback Mountain?

OK, so the line in question arrives in the middle of a locomotive stand-off, with Holmes and Watson only going supine to avoid a hail of Grenadier bullets ripping through a train carriage. But even through the cordite, the whiff of homoeroticism is hard to miss in a film that often forgoes deductive mystery in favour of unabashed man-love.

Witness the scene in which a dole-faced RDJ stands morosely by as Law walks down the aisle with his betrothed (Kelly Reilly), or another in which Watson labours manfully, and tearfully, to haul a wounded Holmes back from the brink of death. (God only knows what stops him administering the kiss of life.)

Small wonder Noomi Rapace barely gets a look-in as the gypsy fortune teller who joins them on their travels, this girl needing rather more than a dragon tattoo to draw Sherlock’s gaze.

Yet as close as Rob and Jude get as they pursue an international conspiracy from London and Paris to Switzerland, there’s an even more intriguing relationship in A Game Of Shadows: that between Sherlock and his fabled nemesis Moriarty, played with suavity and silky menace by Mad Men’s Jared Harris.

Not only does this ensure Holmes 2 is an improvement on its predecessor, it also lends welcome dramatic heft to a film that might otherwise be defined by its smirking insouciance – not to mention present Holmes with an adversary who is his intellectual as well as physical equal.

Boys aloud

Having a decent antagonist really makes the difference here. An early encounter between Holmes and Moriarty in the latter’s study recalls nothing so much as a Bondian tête-à-tête. (Rarely has urbane chit-chat about chess, graphology and celestial mechanics carried so potent a charge.)

Yet it does bolster your suspicion that this is a Boy’s Own club from the director’s chair downwards, something the virtual cameo of Rachel McAdams’ returning Irene Adler does little to dispel. You’d think Rapace would be well placed to inject an oestrogenic element as the Tarot card-reading Sim.

Yet the Swedish actress – not looking entirely comfortable in her first English-speaking role – is little more than a gooseberry, her third-wheel status reflected in the solemn and unsmiling demeanour she projects even when the movie’s at its goofiest.

You could argue husband and wife screenwriters Kieran and Michele Mulroney are just being true to their source material – the loyal Mrs Hudson apart, Sir Arthur’s yarns were never renowned for their female characters.

But given how little literary fidelity they display in other areas, their failure to give Shadows a satisfying non-male presence must surely count as a missed opportunity. The piece’s general attitude towards women is neatly encapsulated by the scene in which Sherlock pushes Reilly’s Mary off the aforementioned choo-choo.

Her indignities do not end there either, a later scene requiring her to share the screen with a naked Stephen Fry in his role as Holmes’ elder brother Mycroft. Take our word for it, readers: this is one blockbuster that would not be better for being in 3D.

Heading for a Falls

Like the bowler-hatted sniper who dogs its heroes’ footsteps, Shadows doesn’t always hit the target. But in the action department, it scores a bullseye, an opening scrap between Sherlock and four assailants setting the benchmark for a later skirmish with a seemingly invincible Cossack, a frantic dash through a forest splintered by heavy artillery, and a climactic confrontation at Reichenbach Falls that Conan Doyle lovers will recognise from The Final Problem.

Yes, a rather unpleasant scene at Harris’ secret weapon factory introduces a note of flesh-puncturing sadism more in keeping with producer Joel Silver’s Lethal Weapon quadrilogy.

But this is counterbalanced by an amusing interlude in a Romany camp that enables Ritchie to reference the raucous rough and tumble of his 2000 caper Snatch. (“Brace yourself, Watson,” Downey mutters as he and Law are circled by pickpockets. “We’re about to be violated!”).

Clocking in at 10 minutes over the two-hour mark, you might expect Shadows to drag. But the film romps along at a merry old clip, rarely pausing for breath as it speeds across Europe via car, boat and Shetland Pony.

Admittedly, you might wish Moriarty had a slightly more fiendish masterplan than the one he eventually details. But this is a minor blip in a higher-grade sequel that puts as few feet wrong as Sherlock does on the dance floor during the peace-summit finale.

“Our relationship has not yet run its course,” Downey Jr. informs Law at one point. And if Shadows achieves anything, it’s to make us hope he’s right.


Faster, funnier and even more bromantic than the original, this far from stately Holmes delivers piping hot entertainment at a furious lick.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • FBGRoberts

      Dec 9th 2011, 12:07


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    • jaferris

      Dec 9th 2011, 14:56

      can't wait to see this , the trailer is awesome , looks like it's improving on what made the first one soo good :D

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    • Seedorf

      Dec 10th 2011, 1:07

      Nice! Really looking forward to seeing this. Liked the first one very much.

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    • MikeyRix

      Dec 11th 2011, 22:43

      Brill, crazily looking forward to this. 'S a shame if what was said about Rapace is true, she's one of the reasons I want to see this film. Ah well, I'll judge for myself when I see it!

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    • willow138

      Dec 21st 2011, 0:17


      Ritchie once again delivers. Game Of Shadows was one of the movie highlights of the year, with its stunning cinematography, gripping storyline and witty banter. Law and Downey Jr were fantastic as the dynamic duo once again, but sadly Rapace was lacking luster. All in all i give the film 4/5 .

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    • Jcoyle

      Dec 24th 2011, 20:03


      Just got home from the cinema, loved the first Sherlock Holmes, loved Robert Downey Juniour and Jude Law there perfect for it and finally loved the atmosphere and feel that Guy Ritchie has created, this truely is a great reinvention of Sherlock Holmes bringing him smashing into the 21st century and attracting a young audience too. Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows does everything better then the first film and yet still keeps the same feel and pace, shame about not seeing more of Irene Adler (Rachel Mcadams) but Myecroft (Stephen Fry) was a great addition and played the role excellently as he was just as mad and intelligent as his brother Sherlock. Dont miss this, go see it at cinema as this truely is a film for cinema, cant help thinking it would of been great in 3D too though.

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      Dec 28th 2011, 20:10


      This is soooooooo good the best one yet. I agree with Jcoyle. I really wanted to see more of Rachel Mcadams. Really prefer 2D and this would be too much in 3d. The forest scene was stunning, hope this wins awards for best action sequence. Brilliant :-)

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    • writerdave87

      Dec 30th 2011, 16:41


      Saw this last night, absolutely brilliant film. Thought it was a little slow to get going and I thought more could have been made of Irene Adler (or the absence of which). hers and Downey Jr's chemistry in the first film was great and one scene to share was a waste (and speaking of wastes, Rapace was extremely underused). Having said that, once it got going it was superb- the pace was brilliant, the humour was genuinely funny and pretty much perfectly judged imo, the bad guys were fantastic- both Moriarty and his right-hand man- and the story was thrilling. The final set-piece and 'fight' was a brilliant touch and the ending was masterfully done. I'd have given it five stars if there'd been more of Rapace and McAdams but to be honest I could watch Law and Downey Jr doing their Victorian buddy-movie shtick for hours and not get bored. Go see it.

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    • Mattsimus

      Jan 23rd 2012, 20:53


      Cant quite beleive what im reading! Its obvious from all of your comments that not one of you has actually seen the movie, highlghts of the year! better than the first! Forest scene stunning! Gripping storyline! W.T.F Are you all talking about? The first movie at best was average and I thought the sequal would have been an improvement since it couldnt get any worse and yet Guy ritchie still has the ability to to be doing an M. Night Shyamalan at the moment (Meaning his films are getting consistantly worse). RDJ is effortlessl to watch however ritchie has picked up on this and simply forgotten that less is more and holmes is less natural investagative genius with an extravert personality and more a crazed, wacky, lunatic who cant handle life. The story had no consistancy what so ever, it even confused itself so much, that by the end of the film it couldnt make up its mind whether it wanted to be jack the ripper, CSI or the Matrix, it was an absolute joke! The only positives were the visuals, streets, costumes and music score other than that it sucked worse than the CULLENS!!!! Dont even get me started on the forest scene, the only real rememberable part of the film and only lasted as long as it did because it was in Matrix-esque style slow mo!! DO NOT DO A THIRD!!!!

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    • freddie2u

      May 1st 2012, 22:47


      the prequil was definitely 5 star so I naturally thought this wouldnt live up to the orginal concept but it did with style as the plot was so fantastic as to be believable! Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have such chemistry together on screen as to make anything believable haha

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