It’s tempting to mouth the lazy summation “if you like Sherlock Holmes you’ll like Mr. Holmes.” Tempting, because it is true. Yet that would also do a disservice to this sumptuously crafted, artisanally layered and genuinely inspired addition to the detective’s pantheon.
A better statement is this: If you didn’t think there needed to be another Holmes movie, that no one could create a genuinely new addition without resorting to parlour tricks of a steam punk, New York or Cumberbatch nature. Then Mr. Holmes will prove you very wrong.
A traditional title for this movie might be The Case of the Disappearing Memory. The ever-superb Sir Ian McKellan is ingeniously cast as a 93-year-old Holmes, faced with the terrifying prospect of dementia, as well as the 35-year-younger Holmes pursuing a final case that pushed him to retirement and seclusion from society. Living alone with his bees, his war-widowed housekeeper and her young son Roger, we jump back and forth in time as Holmes attempts to face his predicament, recall his final case and mentor Roger.
The genius of this story – for genius is what it is – is in the crafted manner with which this archetype of logical thinking has his greatest fear realised: Not mortality, but mentality. The changes this ultimate unwinnable battle bring about in him become a glorious parable for unavoidable, monumental loss.
If Holmes is a paragon of thinking, McKellan is his equal in the thespian arts and this is a triumph, a perfect example of his skill and range.
Mr. Holmes is not simply brilliant, for it is not simple. It is complex, multi-layered and probing. But it is brilliant and also entertaining. Rather Holmes, like its namesake detective, Holmes is the very best of its class.
‘Mr. Holmes’ Movie Times