1) It's better than the first one even though that one was, in my opinion, brilliant.
2) It's fun, it's full and it's fast moving.
3) Noomi Rapace.
And not necessarily in that order.
Now I'm well aware that Guy Ritchie's take on the Sherlock Holmes legend has resulted in apoplexy in some and epiphany in others. There are just as many people trying to raise Sir Arthur C. Doyle from the dead to exact a terrible spectral revenge on Mr Ritchie as there are rubbing themselves off with fake deerstalkers in bristling Watson-esque ecstacy. I don't own a deerstalker myself but I will own my own opinion and say that A Game of Shadows is absolutly superb.
The plot of the first film - for all it was excellently executed and a wonderful cinema specatcle - was, all things considered, absurd. Magic, voodoo and hoo-ha. For many they had to suspend their belief a little bit too far. Not so with A Game Of Shadows. The intrigue here is good old politics, war and greed. Europe is on the verge of the first World War. The countdown to the world's darkest hour (no, not The X Factor) has begun. The machine of war is oiling itself up and getting ready to roar. And there are those afoot who are already positioning themselves to own both the bullets and the bandages. Those with vision, for all it is dark, realize the outcome is going to be war and profiteering on an industrial scale...
Cue neat segue to Jared Harris as Professor James Moriarty. He is an excellent addition to the cast. He seethes with intellectual malice and a gingery beard of the purest evil. Holmes has indeed met his match. Downey Jr and Law reprise their roles as Holmes and Watson with a glee that postively spills over onto the screen. There is real chemistry there and weirdly it feels right that Watson ends up spending his honeymoon with Holmes rather than his wife, getting shot at by a load of belligerent Germans. Bravest role of the film goes to Stephen Fry as Holmes's brother, Mycroft, and who bears his nipples, his paunch and his polished vowels with unabashed abandon in a scene of astonishing nudity. After that seeing Downey Jr's Holmes in a bonnet and lipstick is nothing to be concerned about at all.
The biggest pull of the film for me though was Noomi Rapace. Her previous incarnation as Lisbeth Salander has made her famous in Europe among Stieg Larsson's many devout followers (though probably less so state-side). And I have to say it was odd going to see her in Sherlock Holmes and passing a poster in the cinema foyer for the remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and finding her not on it. How would she cope with a role as comparatively lightweight as a gypsy girl in Sherlock Holmes? I thought she was mesmerizing. She held the screen so brightly she almost set light to it. I wished Ritchie had made more of her to be honest. The steampunk priestess of piercings had transformed herself into a knife throwing, tarot reading Cadbury's Flake girl (minus the Cadbury's Flake) and, with apologies to Watson's wife, held her own against the big boys and saw off any other challenger. No double entendre intended. Though possibly one wished for.
I'm not going to spoil the ending for you but I thought it was a good move by Ritchie. It plays around with the original Sherlock finale but leaves any sequels open to throw off the shackles of the old and venture completely into pasture new.
Or does it?
I mean, after all, those gingery beards are legendarily hard to get rid off...
Cue echoey Victorian laughter...