REVIEW: Mr. Holmes

17 07 2015

Mr. HolmesSherlock Holmes has never been the most embraceable character, but “Mr. Holmes” takes his smug standoffishness to get-off-my-lawn levels.  In the opening scene, Ian McKellen’s more advanced Sherlock Holmes scowls needlessly at a child with whom he shares a railway car.  This detective acts superior simply out of habit, not out of a continually merited accomplishment.

Then, at the pace of a retirement home bingo game, Holmes mulls over three mysteries as he retires to an English countryside getaway run by an exasperated mother (Laura Linney) and her son.  One takes place in the around the time of the Great War, another in Japan in the time of World War II, and a final one unfolds in the present tense.  Triple the story hardly equals triple the excitement, though, as scripter Jeffrey Hatcher frustratingly delays connecting the dots and director Bill Condon never finds away to balance the storylines.

All the while, Holmes suffers from the loss of memory, and the mind once sharper than a trap must resort to writing details on a shirt cuff in order to recall them.  (To the film’s credit, the illness never gets played up for sensationalism.)  Quite frequently, “Mr. Holmes” took a toll on my brain too; it made me lose attention.

Thankfully, I did manage to hold on for the end, when the pieces do ultimately come together and provide a worthy reflection on the legacy of the Sherlock Holmes character.  Age may slow the fast-spinning wheels of reason in the head of this iteration of the beloved detective, ensuring that he would never be mistaken for the Benedict Cumberbatch or the Robert Downey, Jr. versions.  Yet with that experience comes retrospection, wisdom, and human intuition – traits often better embodied by his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson.  This discovery feels like something that Ian McKellen truly revels in, both as his character and as an actor in his own right.  B- / 2stars

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