Review: Mr. Holmes

It’s movies like Mr. Holmes where you stop and think about how often a certain actor is taken for granted. In this case, the lead actor is Sir Ian McKellan and if you take a moment to push aside the fact that he is Gandalf the Grey/White from the Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit franchises or Magneto from the X-Men franchise, and watch him play the iconic character crafted by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you simply stop and realize what an extraordinary actor he truly is and how he doesn’t get enough credit.

Image by BBC Films

McKellan is a retired, weary 90-something Sherlock Holmes, living in exile in rural England tending to his bees. He has just returned from Japan to procure a herb which he believes will keep his legendary mental prowess sharp long enough to stave off a counterpart he cannot possibly contend against: time and age.

Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector LeStraud, Mycroft and his days of detectiveship at 221B Baker Street are gone and done, and Holmes is left under the supervision of his housekeeper Mrs. Munro, played by Laura Linney, and her son Roger, played by Milo Parker, in Sussex village.

Considering that the legendary detective is at the end of his era, Holmes decides to pen the true story of the one case that has eluded him; a case involving a young woman named Ann Kelmot, played by Hattie Morahan, who has been acting rather suspicious according to her husband, played by Patrick Kennedy.

Mr. Holmes is one of the most engaging films of the year. Not only is it carried by an exemplary performance by Ian McKellan, it’s direction is very distinct and it is a crafty and finely-tuned story.

Image by Film Independent

Director Bill Condon and writer Jeffrey Hatcher score top marks for visually and technically beautiful feature adapted from Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind. This is perhaps one of the most technically and cohesively crafted motion pictures I’ve seen this year; knowing that this feature involved Holmes, going in I knew I had to do as Holmes did so well: observe, deduce and follow the signs in order to follow the film and this was a wonderful cinematic experience.

Sherlock Holmes has had many incarnations in both film and television from Basil Rathbone, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Downey Jr. to Benedict Cumberbatch but Ian McKellan simply shined as the detective who made his legend on the implementation of his deductive reasoning to solve the unsolvable and watching his turn as Holmes, who is well into his twilight years, grapple with trying to stave off age and hold on to what makes him so special is fascinating to say the least.

McKellan’s supporting cast including Linney, Parker, Morahan, Kennedy, Hiroyuki Sanada were all rather enjoyable themselves. Personally, I felt Milo Parker truly made a name for himself in this film; it’s not everyday you act opposite McKellan and hold your own.

When it comes to the structure of this picture I was eerily reminded of last year’s Oscar contender, The Imitation Game. Like The Imitation Game, Mr. Holmes implements the use of multiple flashbacks in order to progress the overarching narrative and this structure works well for such a smart story.

The acting, directing and writing were all above-average in my opinion, but I was also a fan of other aspects of the film’s production. Tobias A. Schliessler’s cinematography was simple but beautiful, the editing was nicely done, the makeup department did well with aging McKellan and this was a very aesthetically beautiful period piece. In fact I was reminded of Far From the Madding Crowd looking back on how much I enjoyed Mr. Holmes.

I recommend this movie as an alternative for anything that is mainstream right now. If you don’t wish to be burdened by superheroes, rom-coms, for an afternoon or if you are just looking for something intelligent, wholesome, something with substance, Mr. Holmes is right up your alley.

This is a movie that won’t win any box-office records, it will probably be overlooked in awards circuits-even though Ian McKellan delivers an incredible performance that should be recognized-and it will probably be catered to a more mature clientele, but Mr. Holmes will linger; it will provide a refuge to what some might call “drivel” that is currently being screened right now and it is definitely worth seeing.

Mr. Holmes is one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen to date. Ian McKellan carries a well-constructed picture with one of the most sublime acting performances of the year and I thoroughly recommend seeing it.

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