December 31st, 2011


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Guy Ritchie's sequel is something I've been looking forward to all year, and I think it manages not to disappoint. There's less mumbling than in the first one, for a start.

It picks off very shortly after the previous film: John Watson has moved out, but still hasn't quite married his fiance Mary, and Irene Adler is still working for Moriarty. Holmes is on the trail of the Professor, and believes him to be responsible for a series of bombings throughout Europe. After a fun action start, Watson picks up Holmes for his stag night, and things take a different turn when they bump into gypsy Madam Simza.

For me, Holmes's imagined walk-throughs of the fight sequences were one of the most memorable (and effective) parts of the first film, and Ritchie employs the same technique here, but also subverts it nicely in each case. The other best bit - the bromance between Holmes and Watson - is still there in all its glory, and slightly tweaked: this time around, Holmes doesn't seem to have the slightly spiteful edge that the first film inherited from its House heritage.

Jared Harris makes a nicely controlled Moriarty, there's (for me) a little too much Stephen Fry as Mycroft, since Fry is comic relief here, and not showing the levels of awareness that Holmes's brother should have. Noomi Rapace didn't really have much space to develop a character for Simza - I felt she was following along with Holmes for the purposes of the plot. As it happens, following Holmes was the best way to achieve her own goals, but I missed the exposition where she had to be convinced of that, at each stage. Maybe Simza's just much smarter than me. But perhaps I was distracted, because I kept trying to work out where I'd seen Rapace before. I finally figured out that she reminded me of Catherine Tate.

I wanted a lot more Irene Adler, as she was at the start of the first film, because she was great. At least here, Simza isn't a romantic character - thankfully, because Watson's just gotten married, and Holmes, even if he weren't obsessed with the case, is also emotionally involved with Adler, and shifting affections to Simza just wouldn't have made sense. I wonder how many arguments were had, over that, in Hollywood.

And a nice closing scene.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Do you realised it's five years since the last Mission: Impossible film? Good grief.

Anyway, Cruise is back, along with, well, with Simon Pegg, actually. Ving Rhames isn't part of the team, this time around. Maybe all the budget went on the Dubai shoot.

We open in a Russian prison, with Cruise's new team-to-be breaking him out, in order to give him a new mission of breaking into the Kremlin. However, that operation is compromised and the IMF team are Framed for blowing up a large chunk of the iconic Russian structure. Naturally, they have to Go On The Run, so that they can Clear Their Name, etc. Luckily, they have a Weapons Cache, etc. You know the drill.

Oh, and stop a nutter who wants to start a nuclear war.

Pegg's Benji is now a field operative, waving the odd gun around while still being quite geeky. New team member Jane (Paula Patton) has a Score To Settle, while Jeremy Renner, a photoshop morph of Daniel Craig and Marc Blucas, is an analyst With A Secret To Hide.

It's all very, very silly, of course, and shot through with plot holes (you're doing what, now? Why?) and logical inconsistencies ("This hotel has military-grade firewalls!" Why? It's a fucking hotel, for god's sake). But the silliness is part of the fun. As was explained by the Villain in MI-II, Ethan Hunt does mad, acrobatic insanity when much simpler options are available, so dramatic stunts are par for the course. Cue much Dangling off the side of the Burj Khalifa tower which, it has to be said, is ridiculously tall. But good fun overall, and quite tense at times.

I was particularly amused that Amil Kapoor's character is described as a billionaire playboy with lots of secret tech. That's Bruce Wayne!

We saw it at the local IMAX, which was a first for me. Um, I didn't notice anything different, I have to admit, unless you count the eye-strain. Hmm.

This is Brad Bird's first live-action film, so I don't know whether to blame him or the writers for the awful, mawkish scenes at the end, but at least Patton's character wasn't there just to be the romantic target for any of the male leads. Phew.

Still, good fun. Not as slavishly in love with The Matrix as Woo's MI-II was, and not as just plain nasty as Abrams's MI-III, and some good fight sequences now and then.