Saturday 24 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) - Guy Ritchie

Like the previous Holmes film, A Game of Shadows bares little resemblance to Conan Doyle's original literature.  In fact, Ritchie's films are more akin to Pirates of The Caribbean, and not least for Hans Zimmer's score.

Downey Jr's turn as Holmes shares many similarities with Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow - both charming, yet ultimately rather silly.  But, at the risk of sounding like a snob, the self-depracating humour and ridiculous disguises are not what Holmes should be about.  Downey Jr's is a scatty, cocky, pantomime Holmes who lacks the sharp focus of his novel counterpart.  The characterisation here is all wrong and makes a mockery of the original material.

So, too, does the story, which lacks the intelligence to match the detective's character.  It is filled with neither the mystery nor double-crossing you would come to expect.  Instead, it all feels cheap.  The opera scene, referencing Don Giovanni, is simply a paltry attempt to inject some much needed drama.  The use of Mozart's music also shows up an increasingly repetitive Zimmer.  Then there's the unfathomably cliched final scene which takes place over a game of chess, but ends up being an odd form of intellectual foreplay.  The homoeroticism between Holmes and Watson is less well disguised than Holme's cross-dressing.  Meanwhile Jude Law's Watson is just a typical English gentleman, whilst Noomi Rapace is present purely for some exotic sex appeal.  And Stephen Fry naked you'd expect.

On the plus side, Ritchie's late nineteenth century Europe is a stylised imagining, the washed out feel similar to Burton's Sweeney Todd.  The fight scenes especially are well choreographed, the liberal use of hyper-sensory slow motion allowing the audience, like Holmes, to notice the smallest details, as well as acting as a visual mind-game between the protagonists.  Paradoxically, whilst these may be the most enjoyable moments of the film, they are totally out of character - Holmes is not, and should never be, an action hero.