Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is the 2011 sequel to the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, also directed by Guy Ritchie. The main villain of the film is drawn from one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, Professor James Moriarty, who is played by Jared Harris.
Rachel McAdams has only a cameo in A Game of Shadows and the main female role in this film is taken by Noomi Rapace, who portrays a Romani gypsy, Simza Heron (Sim). Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. The film is reported to be influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, The Adventure of the Final Problem. While the film takes place one year after the events of the first film, A Game of Shadows is intended to be a stand-alone film that doesn't require knowledge of the first film.
Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest detective in the room... until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large-- Professor James Moriarty -- and not only is he Holmes' intellectual equal, but he is capable of great evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective, Sherlock Holmes. When the Crowned Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as constructed by Inspector Lestrade points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been a victim of murder-- a murder that is only one piece of a large and much more complex puzzle designed by one, Professor Moriarty. Mixing business with pleasure, Holmes tracks the clues to an underground gentlemen's club, where he and his brother Mycroft are toasting Dr. John Watson on his last night of bachelorhood. It is there that Holmes encounters Sim, a Gypsy fortune teller, who sees more than she is telling and whose unwitting involvement in the prince's murder makes her the killers next target. Holmes saves her life and, in return, she agrees to help him. The investigation becomes even more dangerous as it leads Holmes, Watson, and Sim across the continent, from England to France, then to Germany, and finally to Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead as he spins a web of death and destruction--all part of a greater plan, if he succeeds, will change the course of history as we very well know it.
In 1891, Irene Adler delivers a package to Dr. Hoffmanstahl—payment for a letter he was to deliver. Hoffmanstahl opens the package, triggering a hidden bomb which is prevented from detonating by the intervention of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes takes the letter and disposes of the bomb while Adler and Hoffmanstahl escape. Later, Holmes discovers Hoffmanstahl was assassinated. Adler meets with Professor Moriarty to explain the events, but Moriarty poisons her—deeming her position compromised by her love for Holmes.
In a little while, Dr. John Watson arrives at 221B Baker Street, where Holmes discloses that he is investigating a series of seemingly unrelated murders, terrorist attacks, and business acquisitions, that he has connected to Moriarty. Holmes meets with the Romani gypsy, Simza Heron at the location of Dr. Watson's bachelor party, the intended recipient of the letter he had taken from Irene Adler, sent by her brother, Rene. Sherlock Holmes, with the help of Sim, defeats the assassin sent to kill her, but she flees before Holmes can speak to her. After, Mary Watson and Watson's wedding, Holmes meets Moriarty for the first time at one of his conventions. Later, Moriarty informs Sherlock Holmes that he murdered Irene and will kill Watson and Mary if Holmes' interference continues.
Moriarty's men attack Watson and Mary on a train to their honeymoon. Holmes, having followed the pair for protection, throws Mary from the train into a river below where she is picked up by Holmes' waiting brother Mycroft Holmes and takes her to safety. After defeating Moriarty's men, Holmes and Watson travel to Paris to locate Sim. When she is found at her camp in the forest, Holmes tells Sim that she has been targeted because Rene is working for Moriarty, and may have told her about his plans. Sim takes the pair to the headquarters of an anarchist group to which she and Rene had formerly belonged. They learn that the anarchists have been forced to plant bombs for Moriarty.
The trio follows Holmes' deduction that the bomb is in the Paris Opera. However, Holmes realizes too late that he has been tricked and that the bomb is in a nearby hotel; the bombing kills a number of assembled businessmen. Holmes discovers that the bomb was a cover for the assassination of Meinhart—one of the attendees—by Moriarty's aide, Sebastian Moran. Meinhart's death grants Moriarty ownership of Meinhart's weapons factory in Germany. Holmes, Watson, and Sim travel to Germany, following clues in Rene's letters.
At the factory, Moriarty captures and tortures Holmes, while Watson is pinned down behind a large cannon by sniper fire from Moran. Moriarty reveals that he owns shares in multiple war-profiting companies, and intends to instigate a world war to make himself a fortune. Meanwhile, Watson uses the cannon he was behind to destroy the lighthouse in which Moran is concealed. The structure collapses into the warehouse where Moriarty is holding Holmes captive beneath the rubble. Watson assists Holmes from the rubble and reunites with Sim, and her people. They narrowly escape the bombs being dropped upon them; but, they finally reach the end of the forest and hop aboard a moving train. While in the train, Sim is chanting in her language, trying to keep Holmes alive from his injury he had sustained when being tortured by Moriarty. Suddenly, Holmes' heart stops and Watson tries desperately to save him. Remembering that Holmes had given him a wedding present earlier to start the heart again, Watson uses it to start Holmes' heart again. Later, Holmes deduces that Moriarty's final target will be a peace summit in Switzerland, creating an international incident.
At the summit, Holmes reveals that Rene is the assassin and that he is disguised as one of the ambassadors—having been given radical re-constructive surgery by Hoffmanstahl to alter his appearance. Watson and Simza search for signs of the assassin while Holmes and Moriarty, who is also in attendance, retreat outside to discuss their competing plans. Watson and Simza find Rene and stop his assassination attempt, but Rene is himself silenced by Moran. Outside, Holmes reveals that he previously replaced Moriarty's personal diary that contained all his plans and financing with a duplicate. The original was sent to Mary in London who decrypted the code using a book that Holmes had noticed in Moriarty's office during their first meeting. Mary passes the information to Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) who seizes the bulk of Moriarty's assets, financially crippling him. Holmes and Moriarty anticipate an impending physical confrontation that both realize Moriarty would win, due to Holmes' injured shoulder. Holmes instead grapples Moriarty and forces them both over the balcony and into the Reichenbach waterfall below.
No bodies are found and they are both declared dead. Following Holmes' funeral, Watson and Mary prepare to have their belated honeymoon when Watson, who is now writing the last few lines from The Final Problem, receives a package containing a breathing device of Mycroft's that Holmes had noticed before the summit. Realizing that Holmes is still alive, Watson leaves his office to find the delivery man. Holmes, having concealed himself in Watson's office, reads a fresh eulogy on Watson's typewriter and adds a question mark after the words "The End".
- At Sherlock Holmes's funeral, his epitaph reads: "In Loving Memory of Sherlock Holmes 1854-1891 He Played the Game for the Game's Own Sake". This is a reference to a line Holmes makes in "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans", added at the request of professional Holmesian scholar Leslie S. Klinger, a consultant to the film.
- While Watson was writing the final lines of the book, his wife mentions that Sherlock would have wanted them to go on vacation, and we can clearly hear Sherlock chuckle when she says that.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes
- Jude Law as Dr. John Watson
- Noomi Rapace as Madame Simza Heron
- Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler
- Jared Harris as Professor James Moriarty
- Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes
- Paul Anderson as Colonel Sebastian Moran
- Kelly Reilly as Mary Watson
- Geraldine James as Mrs. Hudson
- Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade