Beautiful and sweeping with a beguiling plot, this stance on the famous Baker Street detective being more than fiction is a charming tale and wonderfully acted by all involved. It might not be thrilling or fast moving but it utilises the manner of Holmes in a fond manner and is an easy watch.
Retired Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) now lives in a Sussex cottage with housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker). Holmes strikes up a bond with young Roger and through that he remembers past cases and one in particular that haunts his forgetful mind and why he left the detective game.
Jeffrey Hatcher writes a screenplay based on a book by Mitch Cullin. It sees Sherlock as an aged gentleman, his active cases behind him and memory loss settling in. The main factor of the movie is on Holmes wanting to finish his own written version of real events concerning a case that long time friend Watson had made into fiction. Amongst this Hatcher weaves a narrative of other sub-plots from different years that all add depth and mystery to the famous crime solver.
The back and forth is not hard to keep up with or something that fails its purpose, the movement between present day, Japan and the broken case of an unhappy wife work well together all ultimately doing their necessary job to reveal more about the elderly Holmes. Perhaps some of the present day scenes slow the film down and detract from the better offerings of pleasing storytelling but it’s not an overly negative quality to remark upon. The look of the film along with the non-linear structure more than make up for the slightly lulling moments.
Bill Condon directs with a satisfying confidence, you feel in safe hands watching this pleasant movie unfold. The framings and movements of the film are not placid but gentle enough to appease the audience. A lot of camera action goes from one side to the other, he likes sweeping across, almost like he’s mirroring the sweeping plot of the piece. Not that I’ve seen any other vapid vampire nonsense apart from the first ‘Twilight’ I can’t believe Condon was behind the last two of the Bella/Edward saga, maybe his assured directing worked on these final installments.
A lot of my praise goes to Tobias A. Schliessler who as director of photography gives the rural setting such a lush image that every scene looks fantastic. The way each place from the White Cliffs to the ashy site of Hiroshima is captured makes this film stand out beautifully. If it stands long enough, I could easily and quite happily see this man up for an Oscar nod in the start of next year.
The film might be soft around the edges but there is one shocking moment, not that I’ll divulge but it is impacting on character development. Aside from this the film does try at humour, trickling and mild but there is some to be found, mostly in the offish nature of Sherlock and in the preconceptions people had of him, deerstalker and all. It’s a very British feeling film and one that recalls of Mr Turner like visions.
Ian McKellen is a living legend and he has that spritley energy of Holmes in the earlier scenes that cut in to place now and again, that twinkle in his eye does more than enough to demonstrate the glee McKellen is showing Holmes has for detecting. The make-up does help to a degree in his latter years but the actor is so blooming great that he seems so old and befuddled at times that Ian McKellen disappears.
The longer periods resting with older Holmes may not be as strong as the intriguing quality of his past but the film is lovely to watch, the story is intelligent and well crafted and has a poignant and quite powerful feeling of loneliness and loss throughout.