Film: Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows; Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris; Director: Guy Ritchie; Rating: ****
Till the 1960s, wit in American and British cinema was not an exception but a rule. Helmed by good writers who were well read and exposed to theatre, the dialogues as well as scene conceptualization were exemplary. Today, while the revolution in film cameras, techniques and editing allows one to be visually witty, when it comes to writing, the quality has gone downhill.
'Sherlock Holmes 2', a film whose writing wit matches its filmmaking quirkiness, comes as a wily reminder of the times gone by.
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) has been tracking the movements of Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) and suspects something big. Meanwhile, Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is about to get married and Holmes decides to leave him out. But when Moriarty suggests otherwise, Holmes ends up crashing into Watson's honeymoon. But catching Moriarty would be harder than the two imagined for he is the 'Napoleon' of crime and matches Holmes move by move.
In terms of the original stories of Sherlock Homes by Arthur Conan Doyle, this one resembles 'The Final Solution' where Doyle, tired of writing the Holmes series, wanted to kill him off. The film, however, takes merely its gist to create one that has less to do with the actual story and its time, than it has to ours.
Obviously, considering that Moriarty is often considered one of the greatest villains in literature, his plans had to be hideously sinister.
Writers Michele and Kieran Mulroney manage to wriggle out of the throats of that era, a story that is believable in its setting despite its grandiose, though cliched theme of saving the world.
What we thus have is the perfect marriage between good writing and filmmaking. A kind of film which the masters of the past, had they been exposed to modern cinematic techniques and quick editing, would have made.
The blending of history and fiction is near perfect. Moriarty's evil plan is to plunge the world into a World War. And when Holmes prevents it, Moriarty reminds him that he has only delayed the inevitable since greedy countries of Europe are sitting at each others throat, ready to slit it.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law make the perfect deductive pair as they match wits with a master criminal. However, the major drawback of the story is in the character of Moriarty. Though his scheme is sinister enough, it has been done to death so many times in cinema, that despite its generous peppering of accurate historical details, it seems cliched.
Secondly, pandering perhaps to popular demand, more time is spend on Holmes and Watson, than on Moriarty. His cynicism and terror, does not really translate on screen. Also, the film relies on typical commercial formula of beginning it with good action, peppering enough dosage of the same throughout and ending it with a bang.
Though the action sequences are craftily done and the end where Holmes and Moriarty literally play a game of chess not on the board, but by dictating moves verbally, is masterly.
Though often, the wit of the film gets overbearing with almost every second line being a punch-line, Guy Ritchie manages an entertaining fare, a good cinematic way to end your year. Despite it being predictable for the intelligent and spectacular for the ones less so.