Film Review: Mr Holmes

Mr Holmes

Bill Condon’s Mr Holmes is more of a drama than a mystery. After a slow start, the film does engage to a certain extent.

Retired to the countryside, an ageing and ailing Sherlock Holmes looks back on his life. Holmes is haunted by an unsolved 30-year old case, and struggles to recall the details which made him retire all those years ago…

Mr Holmes features the infamous detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle, although in a different depiction than the audience will be used. Gone is the sharp detective about town, replaced by a frail older gentlemen. Rather than the acutely intelligent Sherlock Holmes of the stories, this detective has a failing memory.

The film takes place in the 1940s, but there are several lengthy flashbacks throughout. The two main stories that the film features provide the mystery element of proceedings. Mr Holmes eschews the detective story that some may expect, instead offering a drama about an ageing man looking back at his life.

The two stories that Holmes struggles to recall are told in multiple flashback sequences. Depicted in this fashion, there is enough mystery to keep viewers engaged, although the film never enthrals. As the film progresses, however, these tales do not entwine. This makes the narrative less neat, but perhaps this is the point. Mr Holmes is more about feelings and ageing than mystery.

Mr Holmes is the story of an elderly man, and functions as a fable on the mortality of man, the fallacy of memory and the significance of emotion. The unsolved case is not a failure as such; it works as a device to give the protagonist an understanding of frailty and the importance of other forms of intelligence beyond logic.

The period setting is aided by a real attention to detail. Ian McKellan delivers a strong performance as Holmes. Laura Linney and Milo Parker provide good support as Mrs Munro and Roger.

Mr Holmes may disappoint those hoping for a mystery in the style of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Nevertheless, it is a competent drama.

Mr Holmes is available to download from 12th October, and is out on DVD and Blu-Ray from 26th October 2015.

Film Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

A blockbuster with entertaining action sequences, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows should satisfy most. The film continues much in the same vein as its predecessor.

In the run up to Dr Watson’s wedding, detective Sherlock Holmes is more concerned with a strange series of events. Holmes links these to one man; Professor Moriarty. Holmes and Watson team up once more to try and stop Moriarty’s plans. The pair also need to rely upon the help of others…

With the premise set up at the end of Sherlock Holmes, there is less of a build up in A Game of Shadows. The lack of required development allows for more action sequences. These work well; their frenetic style certainly grabs the attention. There is little downtime, with set piece following set piece. While these are fun, the ordering of events does get a little repetitive.

With Moriarty revealed as the target very early on, there is not the same emphasis on mystery as there was in director Guy Ritchie’s first Holmes adaptation. After all, mystery was the big selling point of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. However, there is enough to sustain the imagination, as well as a fantastic conclusion.

With Irene Adler having a marginal role in proceedings, the female character gap is filled by fortune teller Simza. She is given a fair amount of screen time, which is at odds with the significance of her role. It is not that the character is not sufficiently developed, but that Ritchie’s film lays the emphasis firmly on the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Moriarty is a welcome adversary for Holmes in that he matches the detective’s intellect.

Some of the big effects in the film look a bit synthetic. The stunts, however, are good. Ritchie does tend to overuse the slow-motion effects. These work well in the scenes with Holmes giving a narration of his intended action. They can get a little tiresome as they are employed in every action sequence, regardless of Holmes’ thoughts.

Robert Downey Jr. is solid as ever as Holmes. The actor has great chemistry with Jude Law’s Watson. Stephen Fry makes a welcome appearance, while Noomi Rapace is suitably cast as Simza. Jared Harris makes a decent Moriarty, although there is less emphasis on him as a villain than in some previous adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Although there are some flaws, A Game of Shadows is a lot of fun. The humour works well, and combined with the set pieces and the sense of adventure, the film is likely to see healthy box office returns.