While investigating a series of seemingly unrelated terrorist attacks, Sherlock Holmes discovers a connection between them and the mysterious Professor Moriarty. Persuading his former partner, Dr Watson to join forces with him again, the pair set out to discover Moriarty’s motives in order to prevent any further deaths. Their investigations lead them to France but Moriarty always seems to be at least one step ahead of them and leads them into a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011) – Director: Guy Ritchie

Is Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows appropriate for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 129 mins

Starring: Robert Downey Jnr, Jude Law, Jared Harris

Genre: Thriller, Crime


Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows’ is the sequel to Guy Ritchie’s 2009 movie ‘Sherlock Holmes’. Continuing with the same intelligent twists and turns of the original, ‘A Game Of Shadows’ is a thoroughly enjoyable film which will keep the audience guessing from start to finish. Also making a welcome return is the natural banter and chemistry between Holmes and Watson; the comedy is fairly constant but thankfully, due to its subtlety the movie never moves away from the ‘Thriller’ genre.

Downey Jnr is very charismatic and likeable as Holmes and Law is great as the put upon Watson who just wants to settle down and enjoy his life with Mary, a woman who Holmes is desperately jealous of. The introduction of Mycroft, Holmes’ brother and intellectual equal (played by Stephen Fry) adds to the dynamic of the pair and it is fun to see how uncomfortable Holmes is made to feel by someone who he is unable to look down on. It is a shame that Noomi Rapace (better known for her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish ‘Millennium Trilogy’ movies), has a rather bland character and is unable to show her acting talent to audiences who may not be aware of her other roles.

A Game of Shadows’ is an excellent thrill ride which has upped the stakes for a more villainous antagonist to shine and provide an equal for Holmes to do battle with. If you enjoyed the first movie, you won’t be disappointed with this sequel which is bound to cause arguments as to which of the two film is the best!


Most of the action/violent scenes are rather tame and, although they are kept realistic, very little blood or gore is seen.

One scene depicts a major character being tortured with a meat hook. It is forced into his shoulder and he is hoisted up into the air. He initially groans in pain and holds the hook in order to prevent his full weight dragging down. However, his attacker is sadistic and starts to swing him around which causes the man to scream loudly in agony. The attacker is also playing music on a loud speaker and, during the torture, the screams can be heard on the speaker. This is done deliberately to distress another character who is outside, trying to rescue the tortured man. This part of the scene lasts for around five minutes and is likely to be quite distressing for young children.

The character of Moriarty, who was mysterious and mostly unseen in the first movie, is properly introduced and is the main antagonist in this film. He is extremely threatening and his cold, calculating nature makes him very scary. He regularly kills people without a second’s thought or gets other, violent criminals to do the killings for him.

One established character is poisoned by Moriarty; they try to escape but while the camera doesn’t focus on their death, a crash is heard when they fall to the floor and a subdued cry of pain is heard in the background. This character is then mourned by another who struggles to maintain their composure when being given the news, and also later when they are holding a personal possession and thinking of them.

Other violence in the movie includes one character unexpectedly shooting themselves in the head. The camera cuts away before anything is seen but their body is seen, unfocused, in the background throughout the rest of the scene. Also, a bomb explodes and kills several incidental characters. When Holmes and Watson go to investigate, bloody bodies are scattered across the floor but this is not too distressing. Another minor character is shot with a poisoned dart, they quiver on the floor and froth at the mouth before dying.

One character is killed and another tries to save them but is devastated when he is unsuccessful, however this character is then injected with adrenaline which brings them round and, other than a few relatively minor injuries, is seen to be fine. Another character sacrifices their life in order to save others. This leads to an emotional scene where their loved ones mourn for their loss.



While the majority of this movie is appropriate for most kids aged 8 and over, there are a few moments of stronger violence which may be too much for children aged under 10 so we would recommend caution with regards to the violence. Also, although there are plenty of action scenes, the plot of the movie relies heavily on clever dialogue and the observations of the characters which may make it quite difficult for a lot of kids to follow, especially for any who have short attention spans!

  • Violence:  4/5 (we have given this quite a high rating due to the torture scene mentioned above. The rest of the violence would normally result in this rating being 3/5)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (more than one established character is killed and are mourned by their loved ones, however the emotional impact of these deaths are not lingered upon so should not be overly upsetting)
  • Fear Factor: 3/5 (Moriarty is a very frightening villain and his cold, sadistic nature may be quite distressing for younger children)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (A male character walks around a room naked while strategically placed objects (barely) cover him to prevent anything too explicit being shown. A young woman is shocked by this but he is very casual about it. This scene is done for comedy and is not sexual in any way. One character uses tarot cards and one reveals a creature that has the naked breasts of a woman but this is not done for titillation)
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (some mild cursing and blasphemy)
  • Dialogue: 0/5  
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of finding the truth in a complex situation, protecting people who are in danger, fighting against evil, friendship and self sacrifice.
  • Several characters are regularly seen to smoke (mostly pipes and cigars), drink and, in one scene, gamble.
  • As with the first movie, Holmes experiments on Watson’s dog, Gladstone. This only happens once when the dog is lying unconscious on the floor; Watson complains that he is ‘barely breathing’ and Holmes admits that he gave Gladstone something ‘highly toxic’. However, when Gladstone is given an antidote, he jumps up and runs away. While this is cruel, it is clear that Holmes does this for science rather than to hurt Gladstone and his intention is to revive him rather than allow him to die.

Words by Laura Record


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