Sometimes the universe is a kind and generous place. For weeks I have been hoping to find the time to get to see Mr Holmes. After all, it wasn’t going to be a big box office hit so I had to be quick. Fate conspired against me again and again, and yet Mr. Holmes kept being around.
Clearly this was proving to be a bigger hit than first seemed possible.
And finally, the sun shone down. Literally and figuratively. And as an added bonus, it was every bit as good as I hoped.
Based on the book ‘A Slight Trick Of The Mind’ by Mitch Cullin (which seems to have been repackaged as Mr. Holmes), the story centres on the world famous Sherlock thirty years after he retired from active duty. Through flashbacks and “current day” musings, we see Sherlock piece together his final case while fighting the ageing process and the onslaught of Alzheimer’s.
Taking centre stage with what should become one of his defining roles is Sir Ian McKellen, who captures the old man perfectly while also bringing the classic character to life in his prime. And it’s this balance that helps make the film what it is.
It would be easy to use make-up and prosthetics to show the aged Holmes, but McKellen uses something known as acting instead. His physical changes and the mannerisms he employs capture perfectly a man no longer at home in his body and mind. It’s the subtlety of his performance that makes the role of Holmes – and the film as a whole – the modern classic it will surely become.
But he doesn’t carry this film on his own. Oh no. By his side is one Milo Parker. Now, if you haven’t heard of this kid don’t be surprised, as this is only his second film project, but for a young boy he delivers a performance of depth and control that should be way beyond his years.
Credit must go to director Bill Condon, a man who’s CV (The Fifth Estate and the last two Twilight films among others) far from suggested he could produce a film so gentle and delicate. Yet, somehow, he pulls stellar performances from the entire cast, while making a film that evokes memories of a bygone age (think 80s Marple mixed with a smidge of Downton).
But this isn’t just a nostalgia piece.
Amidst the mystery – which adheres to the traditional tropes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – is a story about grief and loss, age and friendship, with emotional punch and weight. And it’s this that makes the film what it is. It could have been fluffy, it could have been a simple homage to a literary legend, but instead you get a serious drama – with laughs – made with warmth and humanity that is attracting audiences of all ages (at least going by my screening).
In an age where the fifth Terminator movie is with us, a fourth Jurassic Park is still there and a fifth Mission:Impossible is looming large (not to mention the ever-rolling Marvel juggernaut), to see a simple story prove such a success is hear warming. There’s no gimmicks here, no tricks. Sure it pulls at the heart strings, but that’s down to the characters and the actors portraying them.
Without any flash or bang, Mr. Holmes lives long in the memory, reminding you of a time when the story was what really mattered.