Movie: Mr. Holmes
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Review: Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) has long been renowned as the world’s foremost consulting detective since his days at 221-B Baker Street in London back in the 1880s. But now Mr. Holmes has retired to a seaside cottage near the white cliffs of Dover, and his primary concern is tending to his colony of bees. World War 2 has recently concluded, and the 93 year old detective has slowed down physically and, alas, mentally. While the razor sharp analytical brain of Holmes can still deduce where his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) went on the train that day and for what purpose, names of people are eluding him and he compensates by writing their names on the sleeves of his shirts.
While Sherlock Holmes is still a logical man who eschews the trappings of sentiment or displays of emotion, he has become somewhat enamored with the adulation of 11 year old Roger (Milo Parker), the son of his housekeeper. Holmes realizes the young lad has surreptitiously been reading a draft of the first hand account of his final case, an affair that was previously published by his loyal biographer Dr. John Watson, but in fact was not captured accurately in the story read by the general public. An even more fictionalized version of the story was immortalized in a film, The Lady In Grey, a movie seen by a bemused Holmes in a local theater house. Sherlock Holmes is determined to capture the true facts of the case, but to his dismay he is mentally blocked from remembering key elements of what really happened to Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan), the “lady in grey”.
What is the great detective to do? He must solve this last case, and to do so, he must improve his memory. Holmes has tried a holistic cure of taking royal jelly harvested from his bees, but it is not enough. He receives an invitation from Tamiki Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada) in Japan to come visit and together they will seek the rare prickly ash plant near Hiroshima, a plant that may possess the mental healing powers that Holmes fervently seeks. While searching the landscape of the war ravaged Japan for the prickly ash, Holmes is presented with another conundrum to resolve from his Japanese host.
Back in England, Holmes has taken Roger under his wing and has instructed him in the care and habits of his bees. The boy is a very quick study, and Holmes recognizes a keen intellect in the lad and tries to encourage him to develop his mind. For his part, Roger reports to Holmes on a regular basis that the population of the bees is declining. The missing bees turns out to be the third mystery for Holmes to solve, and one with serious consequences.
For movie goers that require a constant adrenaline rush of action sequences, explosions, car chases and gun battles, this is not the film for you. But for film lovers who can appreciate a clever story with amazing character development, superb dialogue, top-notch acting and beautiful cinematography, this is the best movie of the year so far. Ian McKellen has had an illustrious career, but this tour de force as Sherlock Holmes is his masterpiece. For those of us who grew up reading Sherlock Holmes stories, Ian McKellen manages to capture what Holmes would have been like as an old man, still brilliant, but finally becoming a bit more human as well. If there is any justice, McKellen will get a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and look for this small film to gather a Best Picture nomination as well.
Dialogue Nuggets: Holmes – “The deerstalker (hat)? I’ve never worn one. That was an embellishment of the author (Dr. Watson).”
Holmes to Roger – “The first thing to know is there is no danger. The bees only concern is self preservation.”
Holmes to Mrs. Munro – Exceptional children are often the product of unremarkable parents.”
Holmes – “I think I was real once, until John made me into fiction.”
Ann Kelmot – “Play your parlor tricks elsewhere, Mr. Holmes!”
Holmes to Roger – “I look like I’ve been attacked by a hound of the Baskervilles.”
Holmes – “I came here to tend bees, so I could never harm anyone again.”
Clever Cameo: In the film within the film (The Lady In Grey), Sherlock Holmes is portrayed by Nicholas Rowe, the same actor who portrayed Holmes in the movie Young Sherlock Holmes back in 1985.