Graphic Language: None
Strong Sexual Content: None
When asked to mount a horse, Sherlock Holmes declines with this quip: “They’re dangerous at both ends and crafty in the middle.” Such the same could be said about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, releasing this Christmas season. Both Downey Jr. and Jude Law are back as Holmes and Watson, only this time they are facing their greatest challenge yet—the Napoleon of crime—a psychotically brilliant Professor James Moriarty (played perfectly without conscience by Jared Harris).
Where to begin? The mystery takes off with the apparent suicide of the Crown Prince of Austria, which Holmes deduces is not suicide, but a murderous piece in a larger, more sinister plot designed by Professor Moriarty—with war and profiteering as its ultimate conclusion. Clues lead Holmes to a gentlemen’s club, where he decides to bring Watson under a ruse of celebrating his last night of bachelorhood. Both are accompanied by Holmes’ brother Mycroft (a musing, silver-spooned, posh Stephen Fry) and meet Sim (Noomi Rapace), a gypsy fortune teller, who turns out to be more involved in the plot that at first glance.
From there, piece by piece, Holmes puts together what Moriarty is plotting—but not without some costly mistakes. At one point, Holmes races to a theater, where he thinks Moriarty’s next target is, only to find Moriarty smugly smiling in the audience as a deadly bomb explodes in a nearby hotel.
It’s refreshing to see a character as intellectually lauded as Sherlock Holmes utter, “I made a mistake.”
It’s these tiny details, and the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law, that keep Sherlock moving…but for the average moviegoer, this film will prove to be a bit confusing. Some plot points are left for the audience to assume, or shot in such a passing fashion that it’s really easy to miss—resulting in questions like, “Who’s that guy, and how did Holmes figure out how to go there?”
The action sequences, shot in real-time then slammed into high def slow motion, are some of the coolest I’ve seen. You’ll see the inner workings of a gun as the firing pin hits the back end of the bullet, follow the bullet’s path, then flip around to see a slow motion zing ripping open the side of Watson’s shirt as he runs through a forest. It’s just really cool to watch.
That said, it feels as though the innovative risks that Guy Ritchie (director) took in the first Sherlock movie weren’t as much improved upon as multiplied. In one of the wittiest and clever scenes in the first film, the audience was taken on a flashback journey of how Holmes trailed Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) by snagging pieces of a costume and donning a large fake nose to avoid detection. In Game of Shadows, Holmes wears no less than five such costumes—one being dressed as a woman. The “Holmes vision” of the first film (where Holmes predetermines how a fight will go, logically intuiting his opponent’s swings and calculating the victor) is repeated here, only with more close-ups, faster cuts, and less explanation.
If nothing else, see it for Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Sherlock Holmes. He continues his trend of arriving at well-known characters from the side, bringing a quirky depth and a knowing glint that make you think he always knows more than he’s letting on.
In a pivotal scene (without giving anything away) Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty begin to play a game of chess. Two masterminds, each seemingly 12 moves ahead of the other, trying to win without letting on their winning. If you’ve ever played chess, you’ll know that in order to stand any kind of chance, you have to think through moves before you make them—and the masters can force their opponents into making the moves they want, to their opponent’s quick demise. It’s not a game of surprise, but a game of calculation and patience. One thing that’s always fascinated me about God is his ability to “know the end from the beginning.” As a chess player, God not only knows 12 moves ahead, he knows every possible move of every piece you’ll ever make. Some people may ask, “If God knows my every move, how can I even hope to have a free choice?” It’s not as simple as that. Yes, God knows the end from the beginning, and yes, God is omniscient (all-knowing), but he’s given mankind the ability to choose what path to take. To turn left or not; to move across the country to take that job or not; to believe in Jesus or not. Forced belief is not belief at all—and the greatest gifts are those that are freely given, not asked for. Also, God’s plans for us have a way of making sense, of fitting together. Our plans might go awry, God’s plans won’t. It’s knowing what God’s plans actually are—that’s the trick, isn’t it? How do you really know? You know God’s plans when you take time to know him. His Word, his voice, and most of all, his Son. It’s amazing that an all-powerful, all knowing God would bestow such trust in mankind, leaving the choice up to us! Some questions: • What do you believe, truly believe, about God? • What moves have you made that you have questioned whether it’s the right move or not? • How can you know what God’s plans are for your life?