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Movie Review: Mr. Holmes (2015) Ian McKellen, Milo Parker

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An absolute must-watch for Sherlock Holmes and Ian McKellen fans


This isn't so much about how the brilliant detective solves yet another case. Instead, it's about the once great Sherlock Holmes' failure in one which caused him to retire while highlighting his loneliness and pain at an elderly age. Based on Mitch Cullin's 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, Mr. Holmes is perhaps the first ever drama in recent memory that's based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's highly popular character from the late 1880s.

Portrayed powerfully by Sir Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings films, X-Men films), the eccentric titular character is 93 years old living at farmhouse with his bees, his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son, Roger (Milo Parker). His memory is failing so bad that he travels to Japan to try out prickly ash to hopefully reduce his forgetfulness. Dissatisfied with how his now-former partner Dr. Watson fictionalised his last mysterious case, he attempts to remember and write the true version of the story. Although struggling at first, he gradually begins to have flashbacks while spending time with Roger, whose charm, intelligence and curiosity Holmes come to like. Don't worry, the film is not an unsophisticated. A lot of respect is shown simply by not dumbing it down to a generic passing-of-torch story, although the kid could very well be his successor.

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Directed and written by Bill Condon (The Fifth Estate, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) and Jeffrey Hatcher (The Duchness) respectively, the film may not be as energetic with quick wit like recent film franchise starring Robert Downey Jr., or the modern version TV series which is also produced by BBC featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, but that is precisely the point of the film. It is to show what a long way Holmes has come and how depressing he is towards the final chapters of his aging life. The film is so poignant that some audience may not be able to hold their tears towards the end. But emotional engagement is not all that the film offers, it also has some subtle humour, which you would expect from this character, along with the suspense of his last case and his visit to Japan. As the exposition relies of his brief non-chronological flashbacks, it makes the film that much more compelling, although the case may be as satisfying to audiences who expect the usual big Sherlock Holmes reveal.

Although it may feel that Mr. Holmes could've been a bit longer with perhaps an additional whodunit case while he's trying to remember the previous one, the delicate film is heart-wrenching with purposeful depth in the character that's so impressively played by McKellen, who has to portray the healthier Holmes in flashbacks and the older one that has so much regret and pain apart from his physical struggles. Commendable performances by Linney (The Fifth Estate, The Truman Show) and Parker (Robot Overlords) as well.

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What I would've named the film: "Emo Sherlock"

Malaysia censorship: I strongly believe that there wasn't anything to censor at all.

Second opinion: Distracted by work and the cheesy hotdog that she dropped onto herself, she missed a lot of the film, and yet she said the performances still managed to make her cry.

Verdict: Gently compelling and emotional.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Mr Holmes poster malaysia tgvBased on: 2005 novel "A Slight Trick of the Mind" by Mitch Cullin

Genre: Mystery drama
Running Time: 104 minutes
Director: Bill Condon
Screenwriter: Jeffrey Hatcher
Cast: Ian McKellen, Milo Parker, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada

Malaysia Release Date: 1 October 2015
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: AI Film, BBC Films, FilmNation Entertainment, Archer Gray Productions, See-Saw Films



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