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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (Warner Bros.), director Guy Ritchie's second take on the classic detective fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, follows the pattern of its predecessor as it downplays old-fashioned sleuthing in favor of a constant flow of confrontations, escapades and escapes.

While the fast-paced proceedings ought to be off-limits for youngsters, adults with a high degree of tolerance for stylized violence will likely find them diverting enough.

This time out, it's 1891, and Robert Downey Jr.'s Holmes is on the trail of his ultimate adversary, evil genius par excellence Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). For reasons that only gradually become apparent, Moriarty is conspiring to destabilize European politics and bring on a general war.

That's bad news for Holmes' recently wed sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law), the chronicler of the great man's exploits, and for his bride Mary (Kelly Reilly), since their honeymoon trip is violently interrupted by Moriarty's machinations.

The tension between the two long-standing collaborators over Watson's marriage plans was a major theme of Ritchie's previous film. Here, Holmes' unspoken jealousy over his friend's prospects for domestic bliss continues to smolder, as too does his fear of abandonment.

As portrayed by husband-and-wife screenwriters Michele and Kieran Mulroney, these emotions entail—or are at least accompanied by—some vaguely homoerotic humor. At one point, for instance, Watson tussles with a drag-disguised Holmes, and the two end up in a position that could easily be mistaken for a clinch of a different kind.

Watson's nuptials, and Holmes' ongoing interest in femme fatale Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) suggest, though, that these incidents are not to be taken as anything more than comic fluff, along the lines of director Billy Wilder's 1959 cross-dressing romp "Some Like It Hot."

As their struggle with Moriarty leads them from London to Paris to Germany and eventually on to Switzerland, the iconic pair is aided by a Gypsy fortuneteller named Sim (Noomi Rapace) and by Holmes' bon vivant older brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry).

Mycroft's eccentricities become the occasion for another scene of adult humor when he is shown to be quite uninhibited about wandering around in his birthday suit, much to the blushing confusion of other characters. Only as much of his physique is shared with the audience, however, as might be seen on a loose-belted plumber.

The fist fighting and gunplay that take up so much of the film's running time reach a climactic crescendo when the inventory of a munitions factory is employed both by and against our heroes.

This is in keeping with another of the movie's themes—namely, that Moriarty's efforts to ignite a worldwide conflict foreshadow the doom-laden real-life events of 1914. But it's also the clearest signal yet that, despite its venerable source material, this is not a family-oriented offering.

The film contains constant action violence, including a suicide, torture and some glimpses of gore; partial rear and implied full nudity; fleeting sexual humor; and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog Walk the talk. Show, don’t tell. Values are caught, not taught—all variations of one theme: A good example is essential for good parenting.

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