Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Guy Ritchie, 2011)

When I was in college, back in the eighties, a friend of mine had a cartoon on his door that showed two men outside a movie theater.  One guy is telling the other that he didn't know if the movie he was good or not, but "it was worth the price of admission just to experience the illusion of motion created by a rapidly projected series of still images on a screen."

That pretty much describes my reaction to Guy Ritchie's latest film, the sequel to 2009's Sherlock Holmes.  Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are re-united as Holmes and Watson, Aurther Conan Doyle's Victorian crime stopping odd-couple.

The duo dash around Europe, accompanied by gypsy woman, Madam Simza Heron (Niomi Rapace), trying to stop criminal master mind, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris, Mad Men's Lane Price) bring about global chaos for his own means.  But the story doesn't matter, it is raison d'être for Ritchie's elaborate action scenes.

These scenes are filmed with a special camera that shoots a thousand frames a second.  When played back at normal speed, the characters fly in extreme slow motion through clouds of gracefully flying debris from a fusillade of bullets. Trees slowly blow apart as missiles tear through them on their way to exploding behind Holmes and Watson as they leap to safety.

Just as early film goers leapt out of their seats the first time they watched a cinematically captured steam locomotive arriving at the station or Justus D. Barnes firing his gun, point-blank into the camera at the end of The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter, 1903), Ritchie's slow moving bullets and bombs are something modern viewers have never seen before. To sit in the theater and watch the brief seconds of action stretch to epic lengths, allowing every nuance to be carefully examined is exciting stuff.  One could say it was well worth the price of admission just to experience that.

1 comment:

John Baxter said...

Interesting post, I've avoided the Guy Ritchie Holmes as I'm not entirely sure I'd appreciate his take on the great man but your post has got me thinking.