I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
Sherlock Holmes has been adapted into at least 44 movies (not including TV), making him the most popular fictional character for the silver screen. At this point, with so many interpretations of the great sleuth, there is no such thing as a Holmes fan. There are enough versions that there’s a Sherlock for everyone.
In 2015, we have Sir Ian Mckellen playing the part in a light that has not yet been seen. Based on the book A Simple Trick of the Mind by American author Mitch Cullin, Mr Holmes gives us the title character in the twilight of his life, retired and struggling to remember his last case.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s secret as to how his now world-famous detective came to be legend is that he created a superhero. That may not be obvious as Mr Sherlock Holmes never wore a mask or a tight costume (at least to my knowledge), but the basic ingredients of a caped crusader are present in this hero including special powers, villains and adventures (these being deduction, murderers and cases, respectively).
One of the most interesting arcs that seem to crop up in the stories of heroes is “what would happen if they lost their powers?”
Mckellen shows Holmes as a weak and forgetful 93 year old man who can’t remember what made him quit his profession. He tries to solve this puzzle by writing his account of his last case, the film flashing back when he recalls something.
Ian Mckellen is brilliant, capturing both the cold, logical intellect that we are familiar with from other interpretations, but also the humanity that he has to come to terms with in order to connect with his fellow man. As an old man, Holmes must deal with the gradual loss of the people he holds most dear to him and this is where the heart of the story is, not the mystery.
Attempting a connection with him is a boy called Roger, played magnificently by young Milo Parker. He has learnt about the former detective through the stories of Dr Watson, like we have and so is as shocked as we are to have the expectations of some veritable Superman be shown to us as a frail geriatric.
The structure of this film is a thing of beauty. Building layer upon layer of non-linear narrative makes you feel like you are Holmes, remembering past experiences. This way of telling the story could have come apart so easily, but it forever keeps one’s attention. Beautiful too is the cinematography and direction.
I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes through Guy Ritchie’s recent action hero films. People say that those are not accurate depictions of the character, but I say that they are fine artistic interpretations. They emphasise to me two things. The superhero nature of the world’s greatest detective and that this film totally reinvents the legend while holding true to it.
For that is what an adaptation should do. It should stay honest to its source material and yet do its own thing.
You may not agree with this way of showing Conan Doyle’s most famous protagonist, but I for one, absolutely loved it and I am recommending you to see it.
Recommended Scenario: If you want to be delighted by a fresh face to an old story.
If what I have written tells you that you would like this film, you can book tickets to see it at your local Cineworld here.