"Mr. Holmes" Review
Sherlock Holmes is undoubtedly one of the most popular characters in the history of fiction. His adventures span throughout novels, short stories, and more recently in films. Everybody knows he's the greatest detective who doesn't have a phobia of bats. In the past 6 years alone there have been two movies and two television series based on Sherlock Holmes. Mr. Holmes exists as a totally different film than any of these entries. This time around, Sir Ian McKellen is filling the shoes of the famous detective.
First off, Sherlock Holmes is obviously a huge role to take on for any actor. He must be able to reintroduce a character that has already been brought to life more times than I care to count, and he will join the long list of actors that have been there before him; including impressive names such as Benedict Cumberbatch, the late Christopher Lee, and Michael Caine. The two biggest roles for British actors to take on have to be James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, with the latter essentially just being a wittier James Bond who doesn't drink as many martinis and is less distracted by women with hilarious names. One of the unique features about this version of Sherlock, however, is that he is very old, 93 to be exact. I am pretty sure there would be no one better to play an elderly version of the detective than Sir Ian McKellen because, as everyone should know by now, this guy is absolutely amazing, having played such prominent roles as Magneto and Gandalf. While it's almost safe to assume before watching the film that McKellen will provide a great performance; I can confirm that he is in fine form yet again.
Mr. Holmes is more than a typical Sherlock mystery, however, as it actually provides significant depth to a character that usually does not get such treatment. Its comparable to how Skyfall actually gave more background to James Bond than the 22 films that came before it. This different style is a refreshing change of pace, but don't worry, director Bill Condon still manages to create an intriguing, classic Sherlock mystery that will keep you pondering what exactly is going on. The film follows three different timelines. All of which relate to Mr. Holmes' last case he took before retiring to become a beekeeper, which is probably the next best thing to being the world's most famous detective. The primary timeline of the story is set in 1947, as the elderly Mr. Holmes struggles with his fading memory and other setbacks that naturally come with such an advanced age. This is where the film was the most interesting to me. What happens to a detective when he can't rely on his own memory? How does a man that is famous around the world come to grips with the fictionalised identity of himself? This is in stark contrast to the usual Sherlock Holmes stories, which focus on an elaborate crime meant for Sherlock to solve. Instead, there are very real and relatable personal struggles that Mr. Holmes has to deal with in this film, which leads to the most humanised version of the detective that I have seen. Sir Ian McKellen deserves much of the credit for this.
The mysteries are not adventurous and don't force the detective into life-threatening situations, but they are interesting nonetheless. The pace is therefore much slower than the other more recent incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, but this is a much more moving film experience than those. This elderly man is deeply flawed and filled with regret. He is tormented by the failure of his last case, and even more so by the failure of his own memory. The result of his struggle with personal demons is a thought-provoking depiction, with a tender touch from the director, mixed with fine performances from the cast, and especially the main man himself.
Overall, Mr. Holmes is another fine entry into the lore of Sherlock Holmes. It takes more chances than previous iterations, but that it was makes it stand out. This is definitely more gentle and emotionally driven than many of the other stories, and the pace of the film may be too slow for some moviegoers, but the payoff is worth it. Just don't go in expecting it to be like when Iron Man was Sherlock. Mr. Holmes is a moving film that brings depth to a character that does not usually have any. It is worth a watch for both Sherlock Holmes fans and moviegoers that want to see more of Sir Ian McKellen now that he is probably done being Magneto and Gandalf.