If you thought that director Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes is another thrilling crime investigation story with the famous detective Sherlock and his close companion Dr. Watson, I have a surprise for you.

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Instead you get a refreshing new take where Sir Ian McKellen brilliantly plays a 93-year-old Sherlock Homes, dealing with retirement from his infamous career as the famous detective as well as the loss of his memory.

At this point Watson has long since left after getting married and Holmes has spent the last few years working alone, moving into a secluded home close to the beach where his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney ) and her 10-year-old son Roger (Milo Parker) take care of all his daily needs.

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What Condon and writer Jeffrey Hatcher does is tell the story making use of flashbacks for three various focal points from Holmes’ life in the movie. You get the story of Sherlock traveling to Japan in search of an ancient herb, the prickly ash – which Holmes hopes will slow down the loss of his memory. The second are memories that Sherlock is starting to get from the last case he worked on, which he decides to write down in order to retell the story. This time though in his words and exactly as they happened, and not in the exaggerated terms played out in the fictitious tales of Dr. Watson.

The third and largest part of the story is that of the friendship between Holmes and Roger, who admires the detective’s brilliance and has formed an admirable opinion of the man after hearing so many of the tales told in Watson’s books. The pair spend most of their time tending to the bees on the property, but Holmes is intrigued by Roger and his underdeveloped intellect and unintentionally becomes the young boy’s mentor.

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The switches between these timelines in Sherlock’s life I found to be a bit tedious and after a while couldn’t help but feel that too much effort was put into his journey to obtain the Prickly Ash, with not much relevance for this tying back into the story – short of displaying Sherlock’s desperation to cling onto the most important thing in his life: his brilliant mind.

What caught my interest the most though was the case that Sherlock so desperately tries to remember. Basically a man seeks out Holmes after his wife starts to act strangely from the impact of having two miscarriages. He encourages her to learn the glass harmonica, a practice which she starts devoting all her time to – so much so that it takes over her entire life. The case itself is an interesting one and could easily be one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mysteries.

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Condon has enough time to weave together all these factors as the movie’s pacing can be a bit sluggish at times. What rescues the flaws in this movie is the brilliance of McKellen. He plays the part of a younger, brilliant Sherlock and then also delivers a flawed and damaged version of that same man so magnificently that it elevates the impact of the movie overall.

Milo Parker is great as young Roger and Laura Linney certainly holds her own and has a few powerful scenes, whereas Parker and McKellen enjoy some of the better moments in the movie.

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You might not enjoy Mr. Holmes if you are not already a fan of the Sherlock story – or perhaps are even just looking for another cracking, action packed Holmes adventure a la the Robert Downey Jr movies or he Benedict Cumberbatch led BBC series. But even then, despite it’s flaws and occasionally torpid pacing, Mr Holmes is certainly put together well enough – and elevated through some sterling performances from the lead cast – that anyone could find something to enjoy here.

 

Last Updated: January 26, 2016

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