Nonstop Movies: ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is bigger and bolder than its predecessor, just like a sequel should be. But it’s also one thing sequels usually aren’t — better. Much better.

The original film introduced Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuthing duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Despite solid performances by the two fine actors, it didn’t really get going until the “aha!” scenes, where the genius and deduction skills of Holmes were revealed to the audience. Unfortunately this happened well into the film. “A Game of Shadows” doesn’t make that same mistake and establishes a frantic pace right from the start.

Fans of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries will know that the stories aren’t really about “who,” but rather “how,” and director Guy Ritchie stays true to this theme. The villain is revealed very early on — Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), a genius who wishes to start a world war so he can profit from arms sales. The mystery becomes how he succeeds in murdering the right people to make the war happen. Those who’ve seen the first film know that no scene in the movie is random. Every shot is a potential clue to solving the mystery, thus the fun begins immediately.

Ritchie, known for directing quirky independent films such as “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” really finds his zone in this sequel. The pacing is excellent, scenes are brilliantly shot and the action scenes are spectacular. The chase scene through the forest is especially amazing and a testament to what can be accomplished when human imagination pairs with the advanced technology of today’s digital effects. The catchy score by Hans Zimmer also plays a large role in the upbeat and suspenseful tone of the film.

Downey Jr. and Law deliver excellent performances as expected, and their chemistry as cinema’s original “bromantic” duo is obvious. They bicker like a married couple, but both know they need each other. There is also a significant upgrade in the main female character over the original. Noomi Rapace, who plays a gypsy aiding Holmes and Watson, brings sexiness and mischief to her role, something that Rachel McAdams failed to do in the first film.

After viewing this sequel, I’m already looking forward to more adventures from Holmes and Watson.

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” 129 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters Friday.