Review: MR. HOLMES (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 5 October 2015

Review: MR. HOLMES (2015)

Ian McKellen brings a subtle touch of poignancy in this elegantly-paced, if uneven mystery drama about the twilight years of Sherlock Holmes.

Over the last few years, the old-fashioned Sherlock Holmes tales were given a fresh makeover on both feature (2009's SHERLOCK HOLMES and 2011's SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS) and television (2010's Sherlock) mediums. But Bill Condon's version of Sherlock Holmes is more like a step back to the past where traditional narrative approach matters the most.


Adapted from Mitch Cullin's novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, the movie focuses on a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) during the post-WWII England in 1947. He is now retired to a small country home in Sussex, with his widowed housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker) keeping him company. Holmes' once razor-sharp mind is deteriorating, and he's having a tough time trying to recall his final case when he was still a detective.


Tobias Schliessler's widescreen cinematography is put into good use here, especially the way he shot the Sussex countryside. Martin Childs' production design of the 1940s era and its few-decades-earlier flashback sequences are beautifully realised. Keith Madden's period costume design is equally praiseworthy, and so does Carter Burwell's tender music score that captured the leisurely tone of this movie.

Not to forget is the long-awaited reunion between Bill Condon and Ian McKellen following their successful collaboration in the acclaimed GODS AND MONSTERS (1998). Working on an adapted screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher, Condon's graceful direction brings the best out of his actors. First and foremost, Ian McKellen steals the show as the elderly Sherlock Holmes suffering from dementia. It was a perfectly moving, yet witty performance worth remembering for.

As for the supporting actors, Laura Linney -- who previously collaborated with Condon in 2004's KINSEY -- brings emotional depth to her otherwise thankless role as a widowed housekeeper, Mrs. Munro. Relative newcomer Milo Parker proves to be a truly gifted young actor in his breakthrough performance as Roger. He even hold his own against a seasoned old pro like Ian McKellen. On top of that, both McKellen and Parker display wonderful chemistry together.


There is one in-joke sequence that particularly amuses me: the scene where Holmes goes to a matinee watching a black-and-white movie featuring Nicholas Rowe (1985's YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES) as a fictional Sherlock Holmes.


While MR. HOLMES works fine as a character-driven drama, the mystery angle -- often an integral part in a Sherlock Holmes tale -- is hardly compelling. Then there's the extended flashback involving Holmes travels to Japan looking for a unique plant called "prickly ash" that said to help reverse dementia. Not only it was disappointingly flat, the aforementioned flashback makes the already-leisurely paced movie even slower and feels ponderous.


Following a trio of creative disappointments including THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1 & 2 and THE FIFTH ESTATE, it was a relief that Condon manages to bounce back with MR. HOLMES. Even though the movie has its fair share of flaws, it remains a worthy addition to the cinematic incarnation of Sherlock Holmes.

* This review is written courtesy from TGV press screening *

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