30 Jul 2015

Mr Holmes - film review

From At The Movies, 7:40 pm on 30 July 2015

Simon Morris reviews the latest incarnation of the movies' most-filmed character, Sherlock Holmes. Mr Holmes stars Sir Ian McKellen as the 93-year-old detective.

The latest incarnation of the great detective bravely discards just about all of the elements we associate with him.  

In Mr Holmes, the real-life Sherlock Holmes has outlived his Victorian heyday, his friends and foes – even his mind is starting to fail him.  Now in his 90s, he’s retired to become a bee-keeper. Still, even without all the familiar embellishments, it’s astonishing how well this Mr Holmes manages to remain true to Conan Doyle’s creation.

At the heart of the film, as it should be, is a brilliant performance by Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes – as two Holmes, in fact. McKellen alternates between Holmes in his nineties, and the younger, more dapper Holmes 30 years before.

Mr Holmes is an elegy if you like – not only to the well-loved character, but to all the previous Sherlock Holmes of the past. This is a Sherlock winding down - still prickly about his legacy but finally, at the end of his life, opening up to other people and becoming for the first time a human being, not a caricature. Obviously writer Mitch Cullin and director Bill Condon can take their fair share of credit for this. But above all, it’s a performance piece by one of the great screen actors of our time. I can imagine other people playing the role, but I can’t imagine anyone doing it better than McKellen. Sherlock Holmes is a part that’s been played by hundreds of actors over the years, but this one is definitely Top Three, if not better.