Welcome to 2012, a new year where anything is possible and history will continue to be written. A wealth of films are opening in January, beginning with British director Guy Ritchie's return to the big screen with the awaited action detective sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Set after the events of Sherlock Holmes , Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) is working with Holmes' most sworn enemy Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), but is soon killed when her love for Holmes compromises her position. Meanwhile, the renowned detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) explains to the now soon-to-be-married Dr. Watson (Jude Law) that he is investigating a series of seemingly unrelated murders of wealthy and powerful business owners. He believes they are being orchestrated by Moriarty in an attempt to rise to complete industrial power for reasons unknown - for now. With the aid of a young gypsy woman named Simza (Noomi Rapace), who is one of Moriarty's intended victims, and Holmes' older brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry), they embark on a sometimes-exciting adventure of derivative detective work made famous by the Holmes character and come to the ultimate stand-off with the conniving and cunning Professor Moriarty.
Set in 1891, the production design adds a much-needed depth to the film. This is complemented by effective cinematography from Academy Award winner Phillippe Rouselot, who gives the film a very dark and gritty look, keeping consistent with the first instalment. Under the guidance of cult crime action director Guy Ritchie, this film is very much a case of style over substance. It becomes so engulfed in sweeping camera shots, elaborate explosions and gun fighting set-pieces that it is in danger of losing audiences attempting to follow the plot. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's conception of the Sherlock Holmes character is one of elegance and nobility, whereas with this more contemporary approach, he becomes a sort of John McClane-type bravado that we would expect to see in the Die Hard films. But then again, this film is for a contemporary audience.
Robert Downey Jr. and Law have a strong screen presence and portray and good, strong relationship that has some funny moments, adding a light-hearted element to the otherwise down-and-dirty material. Jared Harris is effective as the powerful and sinister Moriarty, and Stephen Fry adds a nice touch of sentimentality and cheekiness to his portrayal of Holmes' older brother. The slow-motion graphics used extensively in the action sequences (most notably the 'forest pursuit' scene) are exciting to watch, and Guy Ritchie has a firm handle on an overall vision for the story. At a little over two hours, it carries on a bit too long and is a bit difficult to follow, but Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a good, solid action-adventure picture that fans of the first instalment will enjoy.