Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the world's most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law returns as his friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room... until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large - Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) - and not only is he Holmes' intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may give him an advantage over the renowned detective. Around the globe, headlines break the news: a scandal takes down an Indian cotton tycoon; a Chinese opium trader dies of an apparent overdose; bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna; the death of an American steel magnate... No one sees the connective thread between these seemingly random events - no one, that is, except the great Sherlock Holmes, who has discerned a deliberate web of death and destruction. At its center sits a singularly sinister spider: Moriarty. Holmes' investigation into Moriarty's plot becomes more dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France, Germany and finally Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead, and moving perilously close to completing his ominous plan. If he succeeds, it will not only bring him immense wealth and power but alter the course of history.
The good news is, Dr. Watson does get married. The bad news is, Sherlock Holmes throws his bride off a moving train. Actually, there's even worse news than that--but all will be explained in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the sequel to Guy Ritchie's 2009 hit. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return to their roles as Holmes and Watson, as the duo take on the world's greatest criminal mind, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), a man whose latest scheme has global implications. Sherlockians who prefer their consulting detective to remain in a traditional mode had best look the other way, for the sequel continues Ritchie's vision of Holmes as a hard-punching action hero hurtling through a barrage of special effects sequences. If you can go with that, A Game of Shadows actually improves on the first film: the story makes a little more sense (or possibly the whole thing moves so smoothly you don't notice the illogic), Harris is a delicious villain, and new cast members Noomi Rapace (from the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series) and Stephen Fry (playing Sherlock's brother Mycroft, who calls his sibling "Sherlie") add appeal. It's all frivolous and superficial, but the film's playful attitude and breathless forward motion are skillfully managed--and the final note adds just the right punctuation. --Robert Horton