The opening of a shadow game foreshadows its plot

Subtle foreshadowing in a film’s plot is not uncommon. In fact, at least as far back as the late 1800s, Chekhov’s principle of weapon essentially stated that foreshadowing must pay off later or the writer risks betraying the reader. Some movies, however, take this in the opposite direction, laying out their plot in front of viewers in a way that’s subtle, but easy enough to see on rewatch.

Perhaps the most famous recent example is Shaun of the Dead, in which the bar crawl conversation just minutes after the film begins describes the entire plot. A new fan theory, however, applies this to a very different narrative. A fight scene in the 20th minute of 2011 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows could very well describe the whole plot, according to a new theory from Reddit.

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User Damionstjames proposes that the burlesque club fight scene aligns with the plot of shadow game‘ major events and sequences, with plot twists heralded by battle twists. Likewise, the movements and specific choices of the fighters seem to directly describe the movements of the plot. Even the end of the fight seems to foreshadow the outcome of the film itself, with Holmes surviving and the antagonist falling into a watery fate.

The fight scene begins after Holmes “reads” the cards to Simza and goes to take down the assassin. Holmes begins the fight by pulling the hitman from the rafters, symbolizing the change in the plot after Holmes’ hitman and Moriarty meet. The fight then continues in the private rooms, with smaller fights seemingly symbolizing the train sequence later in the film. This sequence is an entire act of the film, so its rapid foreshadowing is both complex and consequential.

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Sherlock Holmes falls with Moriarty at Reichenbach

Holmes then punches the assassin through the window. Thinking the fight is over, Holmes relaxes, not realizing the assassin has tied them at the hip and the string is pulling him through the window. This could be meant to symbolize Watson’s return to Holmes’ life, also during the train sequence, long after he thought they were done with their joint investigations. After they land, the entire cockfight seems to symbolize the operatic sequence, with the distraction of the chicken thrown by Holmes foreshadowing Moriarty’s misdirection of Holmes and the subsequent bombing.

Likewise, after re-entering the club, both fighters disperse Watson’s gambling winnings, which can be seen as Holmes giving away all of Moriarty’s money anonymously. Holmes prevents Simza’s murder, which foreshadows him going after Simza’s brother later in the film and preventing his assassination attempt. Finally, at the end of the fight sequence, Holmes throws the assassin into the water below. Although Holmes is alive, the assassin symbolizes Moriarty’s death, and Holmes still stands, alive and well, above the water.

While there are many elements that the fight doesn’t necessarily cover, including the death of Irene Addler, it still offers an interesting potential element of the film. Following the sequence, the plot really begins… and the game is launched. Even more than a decade after the film’s release, fans are still finding possible breadcrumbs for detectives. at Guy Richie sherlock holmes the films are expertly woven into action/adventure, and it’s easy to see why fans are still clamoring for a sequel all these years later.


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Sharon D. Cole