Over the years there have been countless radio, stage, television and film adaptations of Sherlock Holmes He’s just never gone out of style. Just when I thought it impossible to bring something new and fresh to the character, Mr. Holmes starring Ian McKellen has accomplished the feat beautifully.
Based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, the story opens in 1947. Aged 93, the long retired Sherlock Holmes (McKellen) is living quietly in a remote farmhouse near the White Cliffs of Dover with his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her and her young son Roger (Milo Parker). While Mr. Holmes spends most of his time tending to his apiary, a final case weighs on his mind. As the film begin, the elderly Holmes has just returned from a trip to Japan, where he’s acquired a prickly ash plant from a local in the hopes that it will help restore—or at least slow down—his failing memory.
So, Mr. Holmes has the famed detective dealing with the prospect of losing the one thing that makes him unique—his impressive intellect—and watching this decline is sad, but McKellen handles it with a remarkable dignity. A doctor convinces Holmes to denote any memory slips with a checkmark. Even as the ledger is filled with checks, Holmes struggles through the fog of his mind to solve one last case.
The case in question (shown in flashbacks), involves a young couple. Thomas Kelmot (Patrick Kennedy) comes to Holmes desperate for help. His wife Anne (Hattie Morahan), has lost two children during pregnancy, can’t have any more, and has been depressed and uncommunicative ever since. While Holmes is able to unravel most of what Anne has been up to, he misses a very important piece, leading to tragedy. Kudos to screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher for exploring the emotional side of Sherlock Holmes in a way that few, if any, adaptations ever have.
This extends to the elderly man’s rather touching relationship with young Roger, who is fascinated by him, a story he is attempting to write and his love of beekeeping. The relationship between the two is very much grandfather/grandson and the two are a joy to watch. While Mrs. Munro spends much of the film trying to break free of Mr. Holmes, eventually, she too comes to regard him as family.
Mr. Holmes reteams McKellen with Bill Condon, the director of the exceptional Gods and Monsters (1998), which won Condon an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and helped McKellen find the Hollywood stardom that had been just out of his reach after nearly thirty years as a film actor.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Mr. Holmes was shot digitally with the Arri Alexa XT which results in a strong 1080p transfer. The detail and clarity is stunning throughout, with wonderful details and depth, inky black levels and an image that really pops when appropriate. While there’s some minor aliasing, the image is free of any major issues. Skin tones look natural and colors appear balanced.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track serves this dialogue heavy film well. When ambient sounds do come up, they are handled evenly and effectively. Carter Burwell’s score sounds very nice and full.
English SDH, English and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Holmes: The Icon (HD, 2:21) A short EPK discussing Ian McKellen’s approach to playing such a famous character.
- Holmes: The Story (HD, 2:49) Another short EPK looking at the plot of the film.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:25) The original theatrical trailer.
- Digital HD Copy.