Mr. Holmes is a smart, intriguing and touching look at an aged Sherlock battling his final villain…his mind. Click through for my full review of this captivating look at the greatest sleuth we've every known and enjoy our USA Film Festival interview w/ the great Hiroyuki Sanada.
American Author Mitch Cullen's book A Slight Trick of The Mind gives us a 93 year old Sherlock Holmes battling his final years in a small cottage as he slowly loses his memory. Director Bill Condon brings his vivid style and ability to capture both the brilliance and the boldness of our great detective. Sir Ian McKellen delivers an incredible performance with a wonderful keen awareness of the tragic yet triumphant nature of this final tale in Sherlock Holmes life. The cast is rounded out with a game Laura Linney as the shrewd housekeeper, her witty and intelligent son Roger played with a real zeal by Milo Parker, our before-mentioned Hiroyuki Sanada (elegant and electric as usual) and a moving performance by Hattie Morahan as the final subject of Sherlock's last case.
The battle of the story though is always rooted in the loss of Sherlock's memory. We witness as Mr. Holmes races against time to tell his final story and in essence remind himself of the real truth behind the mystery. The pacing and structure of the film is at times slow and tough mirroring our hero's current state. Through the difficulties of his memory loss we learn the intricate details that made man into myth. Overall though it is the scenes between a young boy and an old man that carry the heart and soul of this film. Young Roger replaces the long lost ethos of Dr. Watson and allows Sherlock a new fresh subject to mold and teach. The film lacks the spark of BBC's Sherlock series which has a vibrant Benedict Cumberbatch and stoic Martin Freeman, but it delivers something more profound and meaningful. It humanizes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic mystery man. The script dives into a cheeky look at the famous imagery behind the character and elevates it's story by allowing itself to debunk the mystery of the man. He wasn't real and though Conan Doyle may have famously taken from real life people the details of his famous creation, Condon gives us a film that allows us to see Sherlock in ourselves. He is a flawed old man who is grumpy and incapable of love. Yet, we don't see a love story in the traditional sense, something that even Doyle kept from us. Instead Cullen's story and the film itself gives us a final closure to the legend. His love is his mind and what he is able to give to Roger, Roger's mother Mrs. Munro, and the memory of a dead woman is what really matters.
And of course we feel this love by taking a nice break every once and a while for a good cup of tea. Also there is a nice continued theme of bees and the importance of their usefullness to society. The beekeeping part of Sherlock's final years is a rather fun and inventive way to give us his last fun scientific elements. This striped down look at the master of mystery is enlightening and haunting. You find yourself hoping that he can find the strength to finish this final tale. You push and struggle along as he tries and tries to remember the details of this lost and final case. The prodding of young Roger is all the encouragement we need. Roger is us, the audience, the reader, the childlike memory of our hero the great Sherlock Holmes. In the end, Mr. Holmes is one of the year's most thoughtful films. It's an amazing re-teaming of McKellen with Condon and highlights their real special qualities. It won't me shock if this film garners a look during awards season, especially for Sir Ian. His wrinkled presence is still so gripping and filled with life that you can't stop watching his performance. At this year's USA Film Festival we were treated to a wonderful evening with legendary Japanese talent Hiroyuki Sanada. His role in the film is short, but impactful. His character, Tamiki Umezaki, is a real enigma and even with a short amount of screen time he is pivotal to the plot. It's his letter that sparks so much of the fire deep inside our famous Holmes. I had the amazing honor to sit with Hiro and discuss many things about his incredible career. We really didn't touch upon this role or film, but I think getting to see his regal manner highlights the performance he does give in the film.
I recommend you see this amazing film and enjoy a unique look at a fascinating character that hopefully will never leave our memories. For more information about the film please go, here.
And now here is Hiroyuki Sanada telling us about his incredible career starting out as a martial artist, to breaking barriers at the Royal Shakespeare Company, to conquering film at home in Japan and abroad.