Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows released December 16th, 2011.
Written by: Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney.
Director: Guy Ritchie.
Producers: Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, and Dan Lin.
Major Actors: Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Dr. John Watson), Noomi Rapace (Gypsy fortune teller Simza), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), and Jared Harris as (Professor James Moriarty).
This story is of two friends Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson teaming up to put an end to a Professor Moriarty’s terror streak in what is seemingly meant to be a power grab over war related business’. These business’ would in effect profit from war making Professor Moriarty a lot of money.
This thrilling drama’s plot begins with a bombing in Strasbourg. Afterwards Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes) enters meeting a woman (Irene Adler played by Rachel McAdams) carrying a package when Holmes questions her as to what she is carrying and why all the while making a dinner date. The lady leads Homes to four men who begin to assault Holmes. A fight ensues.
Irene Adler then carries the package to someone she calls Dr. (Dr. Hoffmanstahl) who is waiting for her at an auction, when she tries to leave the Professor ask her to stay as Sherlock Holmes interrupts them while they are discussing the contents of the package (Sherlock defeated the four men who attacked him). As the professor questions who Sherlock is Sherlock’s pipe starts a curtain on fire clearing the building. Irene and and Holmes confirm a dinner date later that evening and part with a kiss. It is revealed the package carries another bomb to which Holmes places in a sarcophagus being bidded on at the auction and detonates it inside the sarcophagus. Holmes leaves.
Irene Adler then goes to meet Professor Moriarty at a restaurant where she is confronted about her actions and the Professor clears the restaurant confronting her about her feelings towards Holmes. Irene is told her services are no longer required and she leaves.
These occurrences set the stage for Holmes investigation into the bombings and also reveals the conflict: Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty.
Dr. John Watson enters meeting Holmes in an office proclaiming how he has missed Holmes. Holmes explains to Watson how he has begun the (possibly) most important case of all time. Holmes ask what is the reason for Watson’s visit where Watson proclaims he is getting married. Holmes ask Watson what a scandal involving an Indian cotton tycoon, news of a Chinese traitor, bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna, and the death of steel magnate in America have in common? Holmes concludes they are all connected to Professor Moriarty. Watson asks for some evidence. Holmes points to a bombing averted news post where Dr. Hoffmanstahl’s death is reported about. At the end of their conversation they conclude Professor Moriarty must be stopped.
Holmes and Watson begin investigating Professor Moriarty, planning, and plotting how to end this streak of terror. Thus creating the theme of the film.
The setting is London, England as Holmes and Watson go about trying to stop Professor Moriarty.
On this journey Holmes goes to see a fortune teller Simza. Instead of Simza reading Holmes future he begins to question her about a photo with a message en scripted about a purpose. Holmes asks Simza what purpose is Renee’ (Renee is Simza’s brother) fulfilling. Simza tells Holmes his time is up. Holmes tells Simza her next client is going to kill her. He then goes into a foreshadowing of the fight that will ensue from Simza’s next guests. He takes Simza with him telling her he needs her alive. They make an escape through an apparent ballroom setting where Holmes fights off perpetrators who wish them dead (apparently sent from Professor Moriarty). After an action packed escape scene Holmes and Simza defeat the henchmen.
The plot moves forward in chronological order. Writers Michele and Kieran Mulroney use a foreshadowing technique when fight or battle scenes start where Holmes envisions the moves he will make before he makes them. In the ensuing frames the foreshadows are acted out giving Holmes the appearance of some sort of psychic ability to know exactly what to do during fights or battles. Holmes sometimes refers to this ability as a curse.
Holmes and Watson are then at the Wedding of Watson, hungover and bruised from gambling and fighting the previous night. Watson is married. At the conclusion of the wedding a messenger is sent to Holmes informing Holmes the Professor wants to meet him. Holmes putts away as his chariot backfires leaving the scene.
Holmes goes to meet Moriarty. Moriarty tells Holmes he regards his talents very highly as they discuss a piece of literature. Moriarty tells Holmes that his request to not involve Dr. Watson in these matters is “no”. Irene Adler’s murder is revealed to Holmes through Professor Moriarty. Moriarty tells Holmes if he seeks to destroy him he will likewise do the same to Holmes. Holmes leaves.
Watson and his new bride appear on a train set where they are preparing to board to partake of their honeymoon. They enter a first class train car where they prepare to leave and drink a fine wine. There is a knock at the door and someone has sent them a bottle of wine. The lights go out and a fight ensues between the some henchmen and Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson’s bride takes a gun and holds them at bay while Watson throws the henchman out the window. Holmes shows up dressed like a lady. These men are identified by Holmes as sent by Moriarty and says there must be a half dozen more. Holmes throws Watson’s bride from the train and claims it was to save her. Holmes and Watson struggle.
The train scene sets the stage for the intensity of the battle and how it is climaxing with Moriarty starting to attack Holmes personally. I believe this to be the highest point of the film when Moriarty attacks Holmes closest friend and bride right after their wedding as they are beginning their honeymoon. While action continues this marks the severity of the situation and how Holmes and Watson must end this.
Holmes, Watson, and Simza next appear in an opera house searching for a threat (killer or bomb). The three begin to spy on Moriarty when Holmes says he has made a mistake and they leave.
They next appear at a dinner banquet where the next bomb explodes, going into the banquet hall after the explosion they head upstairs and begin to look through the rubble. Holmes and Watson then begin to investigate the occurrences. Apparently the explosion was a diversion to conceal an expert marksman’s assassination of one of the banquet guests. An apparent move made by Moriarty to once again control the war products he produces and take over the market for these products. Watson says only a handful of men in all of Europe could have made the shot.
Holmes, Watson, and Simza are then seen at a sidewalk diner eating discussing the events and their next move. They decide they must go to Germany but because of the recent happening this will be impossible unless they cross another way. Simza leads them through the wilderness to some horses they will use to cross. They begin a horseback ride down a wilderness trail to Germany.
They arrive at the border and discuss how they will maneuver in. They identify a telegraph office and explain they must infiltrate it meeting back in the spot they are in an one hour. The team head in and Watson begins to send a telegraph to someone while Holmes identifies a map and looks at its points. Holmes is discovered by the apparent marksman and is told to discard his weapon. The man who discovers Holmes tells him he needs a better weapon such as the one he has. Holmes is knocked out through the use of some sort of fume on a rag and taken away. He once again faces Moriarty who ask him who the telegraph was sent to. Holmes reveals he knows Moriarty’s intentions to corner the market in regards to war supplies. Holmes is hooked through the shoulder by a meet hook and lifted out of his chair. Moriarty begins to sing while Holmes hangs. Watson begins to be shot at by the expert marksman hiding behind a support beam. Moriarty then begins to pull on Holmes as he hangs from the meat hook off of the floor. Moriarty repeats his question to Holmes: “To whom did you send the telegram”? Holmes replies “To my brother”. Moriarty begins to ask another question when a blast occurs sending Holmes out of the building apparently caused by Watson. Holmes tells Watson it is good to see him.
Watson carries Holmes out and asks him what he was thinking. Holmes says he had Moriarty “right where he wanted him”. Moriarty’s men reach him and Moriarty tells them to not waste time with him but, rather, find Holmes. Simza appears and asks if they have seen her brother. They reply no. Holmes says he was fine till Watson collapsed a building on him as gun fire erupts around them. They begin running with Simza pointing to a road proclaiming it is the way out. They are being trailed by armed guards who are firing guns at them. The guards then arm a missile and ready to fire it at the trio who are trying to escape (Holmes, Watson, and Simza). The explosion sends them flying forward. When they come to the guards are over them and a fight ensues. A train appears and the three jump on a car and make their escape. On the car Holmes stops breathing. While Watson starts CPR and hitting him in the chest Simza and Watson believe Holmes is apparently dead. Watson stabs him with a needle full of a drug that awakes Holmes. Holmes and Watson both agree they should go home.
Pending a peace summit, Holmes, Watson, Simza, and Holmes brother, Michael, discuss the possibility of war at during the summit. Michael does not believe it. The conversation moves forward as to what Moriarty’s next move will be. Simza’s brother Renee is of great importance to the group. Finding him will answer their questions and possibly save his life.
The next scene shows the peace summit beginning with Moriarty checking in. Holmes’ brother Michael tells Holmes and Watson who the next possible targets could be. They begin dancing while waiting for the action to occur. Holmes and Watson begin to dance together as Holmes points out a soldier who may be of some interest. Holmes deduces there must be some surgeries taking place changing the appearance of Moriarty’s henchmen. Holmes leaves handing the doorman some kind of note. Moriarty appears and apparently receives the note. Moriarty then meets Homes on the balcony and states the game if chess they previously played can now restart.
This is the beginning of the end. Some may call this the denouement.
As Holmes and Moriarty play the game Watson and Simza uncover the assassins appearances have been changed and they are trying to determine which one is the assassin they are looking for. Simza finally identifies her brother and asks to talk to him at which time he pulls out a gun and it goes off into the ceiling. The police carry Renee’ off while Simza and Watson hug. Watson. Watson and Simza catch up to Renee’ who is laying on the floor bleeding apparently shot while Watson concludes Renee’ has been shot by a poisoned dart. Protagonist Holmes and antagonist Moriarty continue to converse on the balcony about Moriarty’s plans and why he believes they are justified. Holmes explains why he has come to the conclusions he has bringing Moriarty into a status known as check in the chess game they are playing. They continue discussing the events leading up to this meeting and continue to play the game. Holmes shows Moriarty he has stolen his secret diary and also check mated Moriarty. Moriarty tells Holmes he will kill Watson and his wife as his supposed “curse” of foreshadowing begins and he begins to “visualize” the fight. Moriarty says Holmes is not the only one with the gift of foreshadowing and begins his own foreshadow of the fight. The fight ensues and Holmes goes over the balcony taking Moriarty with him. They fall as Watson comes through the door to the balcony. They fall in slow motion as Watson peers over the edge.
The bodies of Holmes and Moriarty are never found. Watson claims the end of the “most dangerous criminal” and the foremost “champion of the law” proclaiming Holmes the most wisest he has ever known as well as the best. Watson is typing this story on a typewriter as his new bride says she misses Holmes and states he would have wanted to join them on their honeymoon. Watson receives a parcel containing Holmes’ pipe. Watson goes to find the delivery boy while Holmes appears typing a question mark after the “The End” of Watson’s story. The credits then begin to roll showing this has not yet ended.
This film is categorized as detective genre. Mary Beth Haralovich (1979) classifies detective genre as any film where a private investigator seeks to solve a problem. Haralovich (1979) states “Genre study has traditionally sought to establish a paradigm of characteristics of plot, character, and setting by which genres can be identified” (pg. 53). Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) fits this description as writers Michele and Kieran Mulroney (2011) establish a definite pattern of investigation (plot), characters seeking to understand a problem (character development), and setting (London to Germany).
Due to the chronological order of this portrayal the audience feels as if they are watching these events as they unfold and are a part of the action. This aesthetic choice contributes to making the audience an element of the story itself: viewer. It is almost as if we are watching these events first hand and not later or after the fact giving it a type of first person effect on the audience.
The choice of the author’s story telling method – third person omniscient- is revealed through the author’s choice of moving from character to character as the plot unfolds. The omniscient point of view builds each character individually and then masterfully brings them together creating the story line. Each character’s actions develop the plot. So, one could conclude the character development (or build-up) is the plot in this film as each character reveals the next form of action or suspense to the audience. The tool of foreshadowing is used (especially in Holmes) as Holmes envisions each battle or fight and the exact moves he will make during those fights creating an intensity and giving the audience knowledge the actors in the film do not have: what will occur. This use of dramatic irony occurs throughout the film giving the audience a sense of being more informed than the characters. Dramatic irony, character development, and foreshadowing are some of the main elements used to involve the audience as elements of the story/film. The choice of the author’s story telling method make these elements crucial to the film’s success. Dramatic irony is defined by D.W. Lucas (1959) in “Classical Review” as having two applicable distinctions: the first being when a character in the drama does not have the understanding of the audience about a situation occurring and the second being when a characters language has an interpretative meaning. Both have the importance of the audience knowing more or having more information than those on the stage (Lucas, 1959). Dramatic irony is revealed in The Game of Shadows (2011) when the audience knows the outcomes of the fights Holmes takes part in due to the foreshadowing used by the writers as well as other situations due to foreshadowing.
If the author had chosen a different story telling method, such as first person narrative, the audience would have seen a different film. If Holmes told the entire story, rather than shifting from character to character, we might have had different expectations of the outcome. Holmes supposed death would not have been able to occur and his re-appearance would not have been as surprising as he would have had to tell us what was happening, rather than him just appearing. If Watson or Simza told the story it would not have been as interesting to discover the plot along with the characters judging for ourselves what was happening. The general affect on the audience would not have been as intense. Each element: from point of view, to dramatic elements, to character choice fits perfectly in this rendition of an old story brought back to life.
D.W. Lucas (1950, December). Of irony, especially in drama by a. c. sedgwick. Cambridge University Press. The Classical Review,
Vol. 64, No. 3/4, pp. 102-103. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/705594
Haralovich, M.B. (1979, spring). Sherlock holmes: genre and industrial practice. University of Illinois. Journal of the University Film Association,
Vol. 31, No. 2, Economic and Industry History of the American Film, pp. 53-57. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20687476
Silver, J.,Wigram, L., Downey, S., and Lin, D. (Producers), & Ritchie, G. (Director). (2011). Sherlock holmes: a game of shadows [Motion Picture]. Warner Bros. Pictures.
Summary and analysis written by Joseph Webb