Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Blu-ray|
In one of the finest character portrayals of his career and in one of the best “buddy flicks” since Butch and Sundance, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law join forces once again as Sherlock Holmes and Professor Watson for their most daring mystery yet against the formidable Professor James Moriarty. I’m a bit ashamed to admit I’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes mystery, so most of my knowledge of the detective and Moriarty comes from Captain Picard and his STNG holodeck adventures, but if a digital version of Moriarty is capable of hijacking the Enterprise from a simulator then Jared Harris and his inspired version of the evil genius is more than capable of sparking a world war and reaping the profits of such.
In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Guy Ritchie’s version of Sherlock continues to focus more on Indiana Jones-style action than true detective skills; although we are privy to several sequences where Sherlock uses his keen sense of observation and deduction to visualize upcoming events, taking into account all contingencies then formulating the best tactics, which are then all played out with stunning high-speed Phantom camera effects. But these moments of shrewd detective skills are usually overshadowed by non-stop sophisticated banter and numerous intense action sequences, all of which play off the wonderful chemistry of the two male leads. The performances are pure magic, with countless moments that seem too perfectly impromptu to be scripted.
James Moriarty is the most notorious of all Holmes' opponents, clearly on a level equal to or perhaps even exceeding the detective, as witnessed when he is able to perform the same predictive visions as Holmes in one of their later encounters. Moriarty is plotting to start a war, preferably now, but later will do as he recently became the controlling shareholder in one of Germany’s largest weapons factories. He’s been terrorizing cities with bombs and has even placed an assassin inside a diplomatic peace conference to kill an ambassador and start a war. It’s up to Sherlock, Watson, and a gypsy named Simza (Noomi Rapace) to prevent this. The primary cast is bolstered by returning favorites such as Watson’s fiancée, Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), landlady Mrs. Hudson (Geraldine James), Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), and the amusing introduction to Sherlock's brother, Mycroft (Stephen Fry), but all of these characters appear on the screen for mere fleeting moments leaving the bulk of the non-stop action and smooth-flowing narrative up to our main characters.
A Game of Shadows looks fantastic on Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p/AVC transfer that keeps a tight rein on colors and brightness. Everything is soft and subdued, with many scenes featuring an almost unnatural blue tint to the picture. It reminded me of the preponderance of green in the first Matrix movie. Interiors, exteriors, and especially nighttime sequences all appeared to be color timed so they looked to be lit by simulated moonlight. These scenes, combined with an overall lack of warmth, even in the sunny exterior shots surrounding Watson’s nuptials, gave the film a very cold feel, yet despite the dark and moody presentation, black levels and contrast were spot-on and there were no artifacts or noise.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix is as shrewd as Holmes’ detective skills in that it masterfully recreates these historic environments and brings them to life with all sorts of great sound effects coming from all the channels. The LFE will have your subwoofer trembling when the Germans break out the “big guns”, and the encounter on the train is an unforgettable experience of sights (Downey in drag) and sounds (Gatling gun chewing through walls). Hans Zimmer's music is masterful, creating themes for people and places and supporting both action and story through emotional score. And in a film where witty repartee is the bulk of the script, you won’t miss a single line thanks to perfectly balanced dialogue.
Warner Bros. knocks it out of the park with their Maximum Movie Mode; a 129-minute PiP audio and video commentary track that has Robert Downey Jr. providing entertaining insight into the experience of making this movie and playing Sherlock. It’s not as technically revealing as Guy Ritchie’s commentary from the first film, but enjoyable nonetheless. If you don’t feel like watching the entire film again you can access the 35 minutes of Maximum Movie Mode Focus Points from the main menu. “A Game of Shadows Movie App” is Warner Bros. answer to Disney’s Second Screen. Download the app to your iPad and sync it to the film to uncover all sorts of tablet-exclusive bonus content not available on the disc. This particular box also comes with a standard DVD and a UV digital copy – no iTunes.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows might not have the abundance of action set pieces found in the first film, but it comes loaded with delightful dialogue and the undeniable charm and chemistry of its two leading men and all those who support them in their crime-solving adventure. You’ll be breathless with laughter and suspense from start to finish with this outstanding Blu-ray featuring superior audio and visual fidelity. I highly recommend.