Starring: Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker
Directed By: Bill Condon
Sherlock Holmes is now an old man. Of course, this film assumes that Sherlock Holmes is a real person to begin with, and that the stories of Sherlock were written by his partner in crime, John Watson. Old, retired, and closer to death than any other film version, Holmes (McKellan) spends most of the movie trying desperately to recall the facts of his last case, the one that caused him to walk away from detective work forever. He is assisted by his housekeeper’s (Linney) son (Parker), a boy much smarter than his mom wants him to be, and who follows Sherlock’s often grasping clues.
While I was watching this movie, my Mom, who loves everything imported from the BBC and Downton Abbey even admitted that it was slow. I had already noticed it, as I am not as well versed in “how slow can BBC go”. BBC is all about thematic setup, and how a movie should feel long before anything consequential happens. Ultimately, Mr Holmes has some nice payoffs in the storytelling, it just takes so long to get there. The biggest payoff is Ian McKellan, who just does a tremendous job in the lead role. Both Parker and Linney offer great supporting turns, but it’s McKellan who carries this film kicking and screaming to the finish line. I would have loved to see him play Sherlock before this, not just the aging sad version he spends half the movie (when not in flashbacks) convincing us he is.
Is it a tribute to our own mortality? Showing us such an iconic character so late in life, near death, and having lost many of his memories? Will we one day, fifty years from now, see a Mr. Stark film with a 90-something Tony Stark toiling away with little inventions in his study, while battling old age? It’s an interesting concept, but the follow through leaves you wishing you could miss the first twenty minutes and just read a few sentences on what you had missed. Ideally, the perfect version of this film is at least 10 minutes shorter (maybe more). It’s slow, and the few payoffs near the end wouldn’t be half as entertaining without McKellan steering the ship. Ultimately, you’ve come to see Mr Holmes for Mr McKellan, who is nothing short of brilliant.
FINAL GRADE: B-