Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mr. Holmes Review

Whether it be in book, movie, or TV show form, I've always found a huge amount of enjoyment from the stories of Sherlock Holmes. In general, I've always enjoyed mystery stories, even from a very young age. The Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys books were some of the first novels that I read when I was in Elementary School and I think I read like all of them. That love for mystery has never left me and I don't think I've come across a Sherlock Holmes movie, TV show, or book that I haven't enjoyed. Thus every time I hear of a new adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, I am intrigued and excited. I will admit that in terms of a movie, I expected the next Sherlock Holmes movie to be a third chapter in the Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes series, but I guess that was never meant to be? Sad day. Instead, though, our next movie version of Sherlock Holmes has come with Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellen, playing the title character. That really caught my attention because out of all the Sherlock Holmes adaptations that I've seen, I've personally never seen an old Sherlock. And a PG rating? This was definitely a much different take on Sherlock Holmes. You can say they took some big risks with this, but in this case those risks turned into very high rewards as this is one of the best Sherlock adaptations that I've seen.

In thinking about a comparison Mr. Holmes, the movie that immediately came to mind was Steven Spielberg's Hook. Very different movies of course, but both take a beloved character that is always seen as younger and look at him from an older age. Peter Pan is always seen as a young kid in Neverland. But what if he left Neverland and grew up? What would that be like? Sherlock Holmes isn't in a place where the actual rules of the land are such that one doesn't grow up, but he is such a classic character that for over 100 years he has stayed a as a middle-aged man, so he's pretty much in the same shoes as Peter Pan. As a general rule I think that we don't want our heroes to get old. We want them to stay around for the unforeseeable future. But what happens if our heroes do grow old? What will life be like for them? That's the issue that this movie discusses. Sherlock Holmes is 93 years old. It's been over 30 years since he's taken up a case and done his usual detective work. He's instead chosen to be a beekeeper at a remote farmhouse. Living at the same place as him is his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, and her young son Roger. Mrs. Munro isn't a fan of Sherlock, but Roger adores him and because of Roger, Sherlock starts trying to remember the accurate details of his final case, specifically why that caused him to retire. When Watson wrote the story, he dramatized it to make it a happy story, but Sherlock is pretty sure it wasn't happy, but he can't remember why.

Movie ratings have taken on a stereotype today. PG movies are typically seen as movies for kids, PG-13 for teenagers, and R for adults. This goes against that. It's PG, but it's definitely not for kids. Content-wise, there's nothing in the movie that's inappropriate. It's just that they would find this extremely boring. Think of the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Homes movies and this movie is almost the exact opposite in terms of tone and feel. The pace in those movies were very fast. This is one is very slow. Those movies had a lot of drama and action. The second one was almost more of an action flick than a mystery-thriller. This one there is no action at all. Sure, there are some intense scenes in the final act, but even the flashbacks to Sherlock's final case aren't nearly as uptempo and exciting as your typical Sherlock Holmes story. Yes, there is your typical element of mystery. In fact, there's two mysteries going on. One in the past that Sherlock is trying to remember and another in the present that has to do with his bees. But this is far from your typical Sherlock movie. Instead of calling this a mystery or a thriller, I would categorize this is a character piece. Sherlock is not exactly a happy person. He thinks he's a lot stronger than he actually is. He can't remember details of his past. Life is very frustrating. It's really fascinating to watch the progression of his character throughout the film and it leaves you with so many themes that are very inspiring.

Ian McKellen is at his absolute best in this movie. A lot of people in history have had the pleasure of portraying the character of Sherlock and a lot of them have done a dang good job at it. But out of all the people who have portrayed this character, Ian McKellen actually gives one of the more convincing performances. If I were to rank all of the Sherlocks in terms of my personal favorites, Ian McKellen is now towards the top of that list, if not at the very top. Think of all the attributes that makes Sherlock great and now try to envision Sherlock as a 93-year-old man. That's exactly what Ian McKellen gives us with this performance. It's also a very emotional movie. There were several points that will bring you to tears, both sad tears and happy tears. I'm not going to give specifics as to why, but you really feel for this man. It's heartbreaking to watch him go through all that he does, especially with how attached I personally am to the character of Sherlock. It feels like a final send-off to one of the best characters in history. It's not, of course, because we have plenty more Sherlock coming in the future with season 4 of BBC's Sherlock being one example. But if this were a send-off, I would be pleased. Ian McKellen has received some early Oscar-buzz, which means very little at this point, but I would be happy to see him get this. Not only because the man has never won an Oscar, but also because his performance in this is very deserving of at least a nomination.

In the end, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes in whatever form, this is a movie that you absolutely need to find and see. No, it's not full of action and super intense drama like in previous versions of Sherlock, but the approach in this is just perfect. It's a great character piece that dives into one of the most classic characters in history. I'm going to look back at this movie as one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies ever made and I'm going to see Sir Ian McKellen as one of the best Sherlocks in history. So yes, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, find this and see it. But even if you aren't the biggest Sherlock Holmes fan, this is still a movie that I would recommend you seeing because of the brilliant story and inspiring themes throughout. I actually watched this movie with my parents and the three of us spent quite a bit of time afterwards discussing all the themes of the movie and I love it when a movie does that. This is yet another excellent movie in a year that has provided us with quite the collection of cinematic gold. Creating my list of favorite movies from this year is going to be a very hard one when January rolls around, so I make no guarantees, but at this point I really have a hard time seeing me leave this one out. My grade for Mr. Holmes is a 9.5/10.

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