Mr Holmes is based on the 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind (the film's original and more interesting title) by Mitch Cullin. It's about an elderly and ill Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen - reuniting with Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon) reflecting upon his life and his final case which Watson's adaptation left Sherlock greatly unsatisfied. Much of the film is about Sherlock trying to remember the details of case so that he can gain an inner peace within himself.
Over the years we have seen many actors play the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes, from Christopher Lee to Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr to Peter Cushing. Cumberbatch's take on the detective in a modernised setting is the most popular one, but now it's Ian McKellen's take on the iconic detective that gets a chance in the spotlight. Unsurprisingly, he's very good as he perfectly embodies the role of Sherlock. The main focus of the film is Sherlock in his old age and McKellen wonderfully plays a vulnerable, dying Sherlock (Sherlock has dementia), a type of Sherlock very different to the brash, brazen and more confident Robert Downey Jr interpretation of celebrated detective. Like Cumberbatch's and Downey Jr's portrayal, McKellen's interpretation contains the blunt rudeness attributed to his character but it also contains a level of vulnerability unseen in the detective before and it makes him more likeable than previous interpretations.
The film's plot follows three different plots stands, one is Sherlock in his old age where his health is steadily deteriorating, the second is in Japan where he is looking for Prickly Ash and the third is his final investigation which is the main source of Sherlock's regrets as he struggles to get the truth out because of his ever dwindling memory. The problem is, however, the fact that the film jumps between three different plot stands at regular intervals makes the film feel episodic. Once the film's story in a certain plot strand gets interesting we find ourselves in Japan which is undoubtedly the least interesting of the three eras of the story.
That said, however, when the film is focused on an aged Sherlock and when a younger, more sprightly Sherlock is conducting his final investigation the film is by far more interesting. There is a sense of interest, mystery and intrigue surrounding the result of the final investigation (the payoff is a brutal one) that seems to causing a lot of grief to the elderly Sherlock (we're just as keen to uncover the truth as Sherlock). Laura Linney is terrific and there's also a well written relationship between the housekeeper's young son, Roger (Milo Parker), and Sherlock is which an amusing and often engaging one.
Mr Holmes is a handsome and wonderfully shot film but it's let down by its occasional meandering story that doesn't successfully link its three main narrative strands together in an engaging way.
3/5 (but only just)