Mr. Holmes (2015)
Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Milo Parker, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy
Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Jeffrey Hatcher, Mitch Cullin
Rating: PG (US) Running Time: 1 hr 44 min
Mr. Holmes, was for me at least, a refreshing take on the classic British character. In that this film plays less to Sherlock’s super-sleuthing coolness, and delivers a mystery within the man’s own mind.
In this version of events, we meet the ‘real’ Sherlock, and not the celebrity created in Doctor Watson’s novelizations of the cases they worked on together. No deerstalker and pipe here. This Sherlock is retired and lives in the country with his bees, and the clues to the last mystery he wants to solve are locked away inside his own head.
If you were making a list of actors you’d like to see play this classic character, I’d wager Ian McKellen would be near, if not at, the top. And his performance in this film is everything you’d expect from the great thespian. Perfectly representing the legendary character at the height of his powers, and also thirty years later as his great mind begins to fail him.
The story however, does tend to wander. Leaving the central mystery in order to pursue Holmes’ friendship with his housekeeper’s son. And even travels all the way to Japan as Holmes seeks out natural remedies for his failing memory. These trips aren’t totally a waste of time, and do eventually bear some limited fruit towards the end of the film. But when you’re locked into the intriguing (and best) mystery delivered by this movie (mostly told in flashbacks) the leaps away get a little disappointing.
Performances from the rest of the cast are superb, and I was really impressed with Milo Parker as the housekeeper’s son, Roger. Despite the repeated issues I had with the script, that would unexpectedly guide his character to moments of hyperbole, with very little justification for his outbursts. This could be due to the combination of ‘as wrote’, and a young inexperienced actor. But there are some other moments in the film, that have even Holmes contradict himself. As in one moment he essentially calls Laura Linney’s character Mrs. Munro an idiot, and later strongly chastises young Roger for doing the same.
The issues I had with the film are not deal breakers however, and I was ultimately entertained by Mr. Holmes. It was time well spent with a great cast, and the superb Ian McKellen in a role he was born to play. The central story is also interesting, and despite getting a little lost here and there, does deliver an interesting take on the popular character.
Don’t go into this expecting the super cool slick mystery solving Sherlock Holmes, because you’ll be disappointed. There are elements of that in the flash backs, but this is mostly about a man searching for closure as he approaches the end of this life.
This is a well made film, and decently shot. A matinée screening is recommended if you don’t want to wait for the HD rental. This film doesn’t necessarily need a huge screen to be enjoyed.
Ian McKellen. A great actor taking on a great part. Absolutely worth the price of a ticket!