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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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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog When we go through pain it is easy to feel abandoned or forgotten, but suffering doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us, He does. Even Jesus suffered, and He was completely without sin.

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