Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon has re-teamed with the ever-lovable Sir Ian McKellen for Mr. Holmes. Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, this is Sherlock Holmes – but not as we’ve previously known him.
A long retired Sherlock Holmes (McKellen) finds himself living on the Suffolk coast in the post-war years with his frustrated housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and her curious son, Roger (Milo Parker). 93-years-old and his memory failing him, the famous detective is determined to resolve his final, and frustratingly unresolved, case before his time is up.
Step aside Downey Jnr. and Cumberbatch, McKellen’s on the scene. Matching the usual Sherlockian traits with a tear-jerking sense of vulnerability, The Lord of the Rings star flips an enjoyable, if somewhat unspectacular story on its head with a headline-worthy performance. His unsuccessful and ever-desperate quest to find a treatment to halt his memory loss, such as the rare Japanese plant ‘prickly ash’, highlights a man – whose life has been dictated by facts and logic – clinging on to his most prized possession in quietly heart-breaking fashion.
Though the storyline – a rather undramatic look at Sherlock’s final case – may have excelled with a drop of RDJ’s charisma or Benedict’s eccentric-ness, McKellen’s portrayal – without having to rely on tricks or fancy disguises – still managed to capture the soul of a fictious British icon with a tip of his big top hat. His developing relationship with young prodigy Roger (think The Karate Kid, but without the fighting), makes for an endearing subplot, as the pair bond over his beehives (a very Sherlock thing to have), while glimpses into his past offer an interesting insight into the true realities of the legend.
There’s nothing flash or fancy about Mr. Holmes. Condon’s simple, yet elegant film – set against the beautifully eye-catching backdrop of Suffolk – is a character-driven spectacle led by McKellen’s different, yet extremely powerful, portrayal of Britain’s most famous detective.