These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.
I have to admit, the moment I saw the first trailer for this movie, I was pretty stoked. Co-stars Laura Linney and Hiroyuki Sanada? Uh, SO down. STARS the living legend Ian McKellen as the titular character of Sherlock Holmes? Shut THE @#$% up and take my money! This was probably the one movie this week that I wanted to see more than even ANT-MAN, and I crave my superhero movies like a cat craves to claw your face off. But in any case, finally took my shot to see it and now I must speak.
Starring: Ian McKellen (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST , and the upcoming THE GOOD LIAR ), Laura Linney (THE DINNER , NOCTURNAL ANIMALS ), Milo Parker (MISS PEREGRINE ), and Hiroyuko Sanada (LIFE , MINIONS , and upcoming films THE CATCHER WAS A SPY  and AVENGERS: ENDGAME )
Director: Bill Condon (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and the upcoming THE GOOD LIAR)
Writer: Jeffrey Hatcher (the upcoming THE GOOD LIAR)
Composer: Carter Burwell (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN , THE FINEST HOURS , and CAROL )
Cinematographer: Tobias A. Schliessler (A WRINKLE IN TIME , BEAUTY AND THE BEAST , PATRIOTS DAY , and the upcoming THE GOOD LIAR)
Editor: Virginia Katz (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST)
This is my honest opinion of: MR. HOLMES
Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) is now retired and lives isolated from the rest of the world on a bee farm that he passionately loves. His only human companionship is his no-nonsense caretaker Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her curious son, Roger (Milo Parker), whom the two strike up a friendship. Although Sherlock is kindly enough to the two, he is clearly haunted by a past event. Or rather, he’s trying to recall it. As it turns out, Sherlock’s former associate and friend, Watson, wrote a book detailing the events of his final case, which prompted his retirement. Sherlock naturally read it and was not pleased with Watson’s memory of the case and vowed to write the version he believes to be the truth.
Honestly, I just thought it was just okay. Yeah, this movie was getting HIGH praise everywhere, and my hopes were skyrocketed. Like I said above, I was looking forward to this movie most this past week. I have to say, it was kind of a disappointment.
If you haven’t read the synopsis, the movie is told in flashbacks. Bits and pieces of his final case. But what I didn’t include was the bits of flashback that touched upon Sherlock’s trip to Japan that he’d just returned from. I left it out because I felt like those scenes didn’t really add much to the presented story. I mean, I see what these scenes were trying to be, a look at a culture that would open his eyes to forgiving himself, but there’s this subplot of how this younger man tricked Sherlock into coming to Japan because Sherlock knew his father. He blames Sherlock for his father leaving, I just felt these scenes, while well done as individual scenes, didn’t do anything. It was like a joke building up to a punchline that wasn’t all that funny. The joke makes sense, it’s just not funny (bear in mind, the scenes aren’t comedic, I was just making a simile). And it’s not like these events are taking place in any sensible order. I get it, Sherlock got his jelly in Japan. Why did I need a lengthy backstory for that? I know there’s more to it than that, but the execution made everything involved pointless.
But everything else works…. kind of. Look, when all is said and done, there are two real stories being told: (1) the story of how Holmes retired because of his final case, and (2) the evolving relationship between Holmes and Roger.
Sherlock’s case of the suspicious woman starts off like a Sherlock case would. A guy comes in, asks for help in figuring out his wife’s suspicious activities. Sherlock takes the case and thinks he’s got it figured out. But the bridge that connects the two events of Holmes THINKING he knows what’s up and the moment where he REALLY does… is almost nonexistent. In Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes movies, there’s build-up to big twists and constant forward moving that leads to an exciting climax. He’s constantly being clever, and using his wits to catch the baddie. All great stuff. But he doesn’t do that here. He just… figures it out by stalking the woman and talks to her. No grand feats or big reveals. Just… a nice talking-to. Which just isn’t Sherlock Holmes. I guess the real point is how Holmes has always looked at his cases like cases and doesn’t really care about the people involved, how they feel, or anything humane, and he needed a bad case in order to wake up and start acting like a feeling person instead of one living like a machine rooted in only logic and statistics. I don’t know anything about the original novels about Sherlock Holmes, but something’s telling me that he’s had cases that ended badly and his emotional state was challenged before. Why was this treated like THE FIRST TIME he’s failed and his confidence shaken? And at such an advanced age too, it just doesn’t seem like it fits the character. It’s like seeing Batman quit like he did in DARK KNIGHT RISES. Batman doesn’t quit. Sherlock Holmes certainly doesn’t seem like the type that quits, and his reasons for quitting seemed just as thin. Police, detectives, they all face failure, even the greatest of them. They don’t quit. I liked that Sherlock’s confidence is shaken, but it plays too long over the course of time for me to truly buy into this being a true Sherlock Holmes.
Also, there’s the story involving the relationship between him and Roger. Again, at the end of the day, this is just about Sherlock being friends with a kid. Don’t get me wrong, their friendship is genuine and cutsie enough to warrant the audience’s attention, and does have a more symbiotic relationship to the plotline of Holmes recollecting his memories of his last case, but when it’s not about that, it’s just about Sherlock Holmes teaching a kid about bees. It’s just not as interesting as it sounds.
I just can’t pinpoint why this had to be a Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes solves big mysteries and sees things that no one else does. He doesn’t do any of this in this movie. I have to ask, I know this movie is based on the Mitch Cullin novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, so… how faithful is this movie to the novel? Is it so far away from the source that fans would hate it? If so, I can see why. Is it faithful to a tee? If so, how is this a popular story featuring the most legendary of detectives? I mean, it’s not a bad idea, it had great potential, but its execution is just dull. I feel like it would have worked better if the character was just some old detective that was supposed to REPRESENT Sherlock Holmes, a retrospective look at what he would do IF he retired and why. That would have been more effective. But this just wasn’t a very interesting or exciting look at this particular “what if” scenario.
I won’t say the movie is a complete bust, and I know I’m just basing my words on what I hoped the movie would be rather than for what it is. McKellen gives a great performance that only he can give and would be a fantastic old Sherlock if he was given more interesting and bigger material to work with. Linney’s amazing as always and young Parker is a surprisingly good actor for his age and he and McKellen have great chemistry. I just can’t get over how droll a story this is for a Sherlock Holmes movie. Is it awful? No, not from a dramatic standpoint. On a Sherlock Holmes standpoint, yeah kinda.
My honest rating for MR. HOLMES: a weak 3/5