Film review: Mr Holmes (9 out of 10)

Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes
Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes
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It was a brave decision to put together another Sherlock Holmes project after Guy Ritchie had, arguably, nailed it on the big screen and Benedict Cumberbatch and co had gained so much major success on the TV - following countless other versions.

But full credit where it’s due - with Ian McKellen in the lead role this is a superb story of the famous detective in his dotage.

To add to the local enjoyment, much of the filming was done in East Sussex and the Bluebell Railway was called into service once again.

The story begins, post second world war, with a frail and grumpy Holmes returning to his isolated cottage near the coast after a trip to Japan.

His memory is fading and he’s been on a search for a rare plant supposedly good for dementia.

He is on a mission to recall all the details of his final case, one that left him emotionally drained and in despair and led to his isolation.

All the familiar Holmes characters, Dr Watson, Mycroft Holmes and Mrs Hudson, are dead.

He is looked after by a housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker).

With Roger’s help, Holmes gradually pieces together the answer to his questions and discovers the truth about himself.

It may sound a bit deep but we are guided through Holmes’ memories with care by director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Kinsey) with flashbacks to the case and to his trip to war-ravaged Japan which also has a profound effect on the former consulting detective.

Young Milo is excellent in what is a vital role and American Linney adds her expertise, although both sport a rather strange west country accent.

There’s also a scattering of cameos from the likes of Frances de la Tour, John Sessions, Frances Barber and Phil Davis.

But this is a masterclass from McKellen. It’s a superb role that requires the ability to switch from sprightly middle age to infirmity and the frustration of a mentally acute man having to face up to his dementia.

He surely must get some recognition for this role come awards time.

Don’t expect the Downey Jnr or Cumberbatch swashbuckling style for this Holmes story.

Instead, enjoy a moving story about lost opportunities and a man coming to terms with his own frailties.

Film details: Mr Holmes (PG) 104mins

Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol