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Now that consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) knows who was pulling the strings behind Lord Blackwood’s villainous plot to overthrow the British government, it’s become his singular goal to stop Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) and whatever his nefarious plans may be. There’s little doubt (at least to Holmes) that the unassuming academic is behind a whole series of seemingly unrelated events – anarchist bombings, the death of a renowned physician, and an impending international peace summit – but his end game is unclear, at least for the moment.
Knowing Holmes is his intellectual equal, and thus the only real threat to his plans, Moriarty has no compunction targeting those important to the detective. The most obvious is Holmes’s longtime partner (and sometimes begrudging friend) Dr. Watson (Jude Law), who has even more to lose now that he’s married his longtime love Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). Brought into the fray despite his objections, Watson will again prove indispensable at key moments, though the aid of the mysterious gypsy woman Simza (Noomi Rapace) and Holmes’s brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) will show it takes more than one person (genius though he may be) to take down a madman.
With the success and popularity of the BBC’s “Sherlock” TV series, which sets the crime-solving duo of Holmes and Watson in modern times, it’s been kind of easy to forget – and even overlook – the feature film franchise helmed by director Guy Ritchie. It’s not necessarily because the features keep the character in the 19th-Century, as there are some undeniably modern (and thus a little anachronistic) aspects to Ritchie’s productions. But the modern urban setting of the BBC property is representative of an undeniable vim and vigor that the films lack, despite their flashy “Holmesavision” visual effects and bombastic action sequences.
That’s not to say Ritchie’s films aren’t entertaining and fun. In the sequel, Downey, Jr. still makes for a surprisingly deft Englishman (though it’s becoming more difficult to see him as anyone else but Tony Stark these days) and his brother-in-arms chemistry with co-star Law never flags.
Harris, who is quickly becoming the quintessential smarty-pants villain after his turn on the TV show “Fringe,” is also perfectly cast as Moriarty and almost steals the show (Fry as Mycroft certainly does so in the handful of scenes he’s in).
Unfortunately Rapace – who had a more substantial role in the Swedish “Dragon Tattoo” trilogy – doesn’t get much to do. She’s never relegated to a damsel in distress per se, but given her past credits it’s obvious she could have handled more.
The “game of shadows” of the title proves adequate, if a little over-complex at times, with the ambitions fueling it seeming a little...pedestrian, once revealed. More compelling is Moriarty’s cynical, yet all-too-true evaluation of the human condition. That Holmes merely acquiesces to it makes it all the more brutal, and ultimately the superior motive for a villain of Moriarty’s caliber.
Maximum Movie Mode with Robert Downey, Jr. (2:08:44): The actor hosts the enhanced picture-in-picture commentary feature, which includes jumps to still image galleries, on-set interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage matched with their respective scenes, links to Focus Points (which are also accessible independently), and Downey, Jr. providing his wisecracking commentary on key sequences. There are gaps between Movie Mode elements, but users can easily skip to the next set with a directional button on the remote. Though some may prefer to access all the content separate from the feature, the integration of the supplements in context with the film and a painless method to move through it makes a good case for all bonus material to be presented this way.
Focus Points (34:59, HD)
- Holmesavision on Steroids (4:02, HD): Filmmakers describe how they amplified the presentation of Holmes predictive abilities.
- Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed (7:09, HD): Takes a look at the character of Holmes’ arch nemesis and the actor who plays him.
- Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry (5:18, HD): Downey, Jr. and Law talk about working together again and the nature of the Holmes-Watson relationship.
- Meet Mycroft Holmes (5:30, HD): Takes a look at the character of Holmes’ older brother and the actor who plays him.
- Sherlock Holmes: Under the Gypsy Spell (4:02, HD): Takes a look at the character of Madam Simza Heron and the actress who plays her.
- Guy Ritchie’s Well-Oiled Machine (3:04, HD): Cast and crew talk about working under the director’s leadership.
- Holmes without Borders (5:51, HD): Takes a look at the film’s various international production locations.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Movie App: The free app for both iOS and Android devices provides additional content in context with the film after what appears to be a simple syncing procedure. It looks like an intriguing feature (for those who don’t mind multi-tasking during a movie), but I was not able to test the app myself since I don’t have a suitable mobile device.
Ultraviolet Digital Copy: Offer expires June 12, 2014.
DVD: The disc includes the main feature presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic video and Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French and Spanish. Special features are limited to just the first three Focus Points featurettes.