Wednesday, August 12, 2015


“When legend becomes fact, print the legend.”  That is my favorite line from the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  It is also, in a way, the main premise of Mr. Holmes.  This movie shows the “real” Holmes.  Not the one we have all read stories about; stories that Holmes says were very much embellished by Dr. Watson.  It is refreshing to see the classic story approached from this original angle.     

                This movie employs a technique that I have seen used several times this year; parallel storytelling.  There are three different stories being told at once that encompass three different periods in Holmes’ life.  The somewhat unreliable narrator taking us on this journey is a 92 year old Sherlock Holmes who is suffering from senility….and probably Alzheimer’s by the looks of things.  He is trying to remember events from his life so that he can write them the way that they really happened.  The one thing he is sure of is that they didn’t occur the way people think they did. 

                The plot of this film is very intriguing and much more involved than I thought it would be.  Screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher and director Bill Condon (Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Dreamgirls) did a very good job with this film.  The parallel storytelling is well organized and to the point.  The plot moves slowly but steadily and there is no wasted time.  The movie can feel a bit long at times but I wouldn’t say that it drags or anything like that.  This film is an investment.  It will take time and thought to get anything out of it.  The characters are very good, which is what truly gets you invested in the film on an emotional level.  As I said before, this is a very intriguing story; impressively so. 

                Ian McKellen is a legend and there is never any doubt that he is going to have a good performance in whatever movie he is in.  That being said, it is no surprise that this is one of my favorite performances of the year.  He plays Holmes at two different ages that are thirty years apart and is very convincing at both.  McKellen has some truly great dialogue and, while he plays a different Holmes than we are familiar with, he is exactly as one might expect a great detective to be.  McKellen’s performance is most impressive when he is struggling to remember something that happened in the past, showing us an emotional combination of frustration and helplessness. 

                The ending of the movie is highly intense.   Something happens at the end that seemed completely unnecessary to me at the time, but the way it played out showed me how wrong I was.  Just when it seemed like the movie should be wrapping up, it takes an unexpected turn that really pays off in the last five or ten minutes.  This ending is highly metaphorical, filled with symbolism, and is exactly what this film needed. 

                Mr. Holmes is a very good film.  It is not a casual, date night type of movie.  This is a film that is very emotional and thought provoking.  It has a lot of story to it but avoids getting convoluted.  Great performances by the cast, including a legendary outing from Ian McKellen, is what puts this film in a different league.  The Movie Man gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars. 
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