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Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011)
Director: Guy Ritchie

review by J.C. Hartley

Of course, if you listen to our fearless leader Dave, what the British film industry needs to be doing is taking on Hollywood with more Harry Potters, big blockbuster movies with our big name actors and actresses, and our undoubted technical expertise, but probably with American dosh and American distribution. Yeah, it's that simple. No one ever mentions the writing, or explains how a little independent movie can suddenly go global. The UK can, and regularly does, make great movies, whatever the expert opinion of Ricky Gervais that we made a few good films in the 1950s and then dried up.

This, of course, isn't a British picture as funding, production, and distribution came from elsewhere, but it has a British director and a British story and a largely British cast and a big American star to attract the money. But let's hear it for the director. Guy Ritchie, for all that some critics see him as a public-school oik, looting a febrile fascination for 'mockernee' culture to make his reputation, is a real cineaste steeped in a love of Leone, trying to recapture the feeling that he got watching The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, and then putting it on to watch it all over again with no diminution of enjoyment. Great films are made by people who love the medium and don't dumb down.

Anyway, I was unaccountably annoyed and fidgety for the first half-hour of A Game Of Shadows, despite some reasonable jokes and the appearance of a vast Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes; 'Hello, Mikey'; 'Hello Sherly'. Ritchie still does his thing of showing you what's going to happen from Holmes' POV then letting it roll, although this time he countered expectations by having something else happen. He thought this was such a good trick he did it again, and possibly again. But, occasionally irritating little foibles aside, Ritchie can direct action, he understands pace, and knows how important humour is.

The plot of A Game Of Shadows is suspiciously similar to The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in that the villain, also Moriarty, stockpiles a vast arsenal of somewhat incongruous weaponry, and then does his damnedest to start a world war in order to flog it. Jared Harris, son of the mighty Richard, whose exploits I have been following in the rather depressing Hellraisers by Robert Sellers, makes a splendid villain, terrifyingly cruel in his very urbanity. Once again, the relationship between Jude Law's Watson and Robert Downey Jr's Holmes carries the whole thing along despite the aforesaid incongruities, plot-holes, and occasional directorial grandstanding.

I don't really see where they can take this now, unless Ritchie fancies a go at The Hound Of The Baskervilles, but I think if they can make a go of another film then they should call it a day after three, and consider themselves well pleased with their efforts. At the end of A Game Of Shadows, Moriarty's right-hand man, the disgraced British officer and killer, Colonel Moran, escapes. Sherlock Holmes' return in the short stories was heralded by the capture of Moran, so there's a possibility.

Of course, Ritchie's two Sherlock Holmes films have drawn less upon the books than Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss' BBC TV series, although both versions have their own canonical authenticity. In his version Ritchie has leapt already from a threat to the British constitution in Sherlock Holmes, to a threat to world peace in A Game Of Shadows; feral goings-on on the Yorkshire moors with Colonel Moran involved might be a way to finish things off.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

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