Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Guy Ritchie, 129 mins (12A) Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird, 132 mins (12A) (released 26 Dec)

 

Guy Ritchie's second Sherlock Holmes film improves on the first one in every respect.

That's not to say that Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows couldn't have been tidied up in the editing suite – this is Ritchie we're talking about – but over all it's a rip-roaring caper, with enough manic energy and camp self-mockery to set it apart from most action movies. The wild-eyed Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and the dogged Watson (Jude Law) make a lovable double act, Jared Harris's Professor Moriarty is chilling, and Stephen Fry is delightful, if under-used as Holmes's patrician brother Mycroft. Best of all, Downey has taken the radical decision to speak his lines clearly, instead of mumbling them as he did last time.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol raises the old question of how impossible can these missions be, if Tom Cruise keeps accomplishing them? The answer, in this case, is that Tom's mission would be absolutely impossible for anyone except the four people who have chosen to accept it. Luckily, however, Cruise and his team (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton) can tick off the most ludicrously challenging feats as easily as they can saunter away from bone-shattering falls. The joke soon wears thin. Once you've seen Cruise do six impossible things before breakfast, it's difficult to care about the seventh.

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