How many actors can we identify with the character Sherlock Holmes? We have Hollywood’s version played by the flamboyant Robert Downey Junior (which by the way, appears to have a 3rd instalment in the works) and the BBC series “Sherlock” that shot Benedict Cumberbatch to fame playing the neurotic character.
Third’s time the charm with award winning Sir Ian McKellen donning the figurative deerstalker in a fast-forward depiction of Sherlock Holmes at the end of his career. Set in 1947 and at 93 years of age, Sherlock’s memory is declining rapidly and he stays in a self-exiled cottage tending to his bee farm with his housekeeper Mrs Munro (played by Laura Linney) and her young son, Roger (played by Milo Parker).
Sherlock reveals to Roger (whom he finds an odd companionship in) that Watson’s heavy fictionalisation of his character at 221B Baker Street was nothing but the sensational concoction of Watson’s dramatic penmanship. Dissatisfied, he is determined the recount his Final Case and put in into writing in his own words. Unfortunately, his declining memory (or intentional blocking of memories?) leads to Sherlock’s desperate attempts to consume prickly ash or royal jelly to piece together fragments of his dreams.
It is revealed in the movie that Sherlock’s retirement and degeneration was closely linked to the Final Case – involving a mystery woman (Ann Thelmot played by Hattie Morahan) and a Japanese pricky ash enthusiast (Matsuda Umezaki played by Hiroyuki Sanada) that Sherlock struggles to remember with flashbacks across two other timeframes. Roger is this movie’s version of Watson, an ever-faithful sidekick gently prodding and questioning Sherlock to help him complete his final task and to finish writing his story about the Final Case.
Adapted from Mitch Cullin’s book A Slight Trick of the Mind, Sir Ian McKellen‘s character will not feature exciting chase scenes and gun shots with the usual intelligent criminals we expect. What is portrayed instead are poignant themes of depression, loneliness and Sherlock’s eventual realisation that logic, while ever unfailing, will always be at odds with human nature. The movie focuses on well-acted drama and the personalities of the characters wonderfully played out by the stellar award winning cast.
It also perhaps apt, that the movie elects to drop the character’s iconic first name from the title to capture the vulnerable side of the otherwise poker-faced unfeeling Sherlock Holmes whom we often forget, is also human after all.
Mr. Holmes opens in theatres 6 August 2015.
Directed by: Bill Condon
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Drama
Running time: 104 minutes
Rating: 8 out of 10