Let's make one thing perfectly clear: if you're expecting the kind of whiz-bang Sherlock Holmes that you get from the BBC's Sherlock or the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr films (which should be called Dr. Watson & His Crazy Detective Pal) you'll be very disappointed. Mr. Holmes is a thoughtful film about aging, mortality, and connection that deserves to be placed in that distinct Sherlockian genre that includes The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, and CBS' Elementary.
(And as contributor to I Hear of Sherlock, I am very familiar with works about and around Sherlock Holmes)
Directed by Bill Condon (who also worked with the lead actor in Gods & Monsters), Mr. Holmes features Ian McKellen as a 93-year-old Holmes in the twilight of his life. Dr Watson and his brother Mycroft have since passed on, and Holmes now keeps bees in Sussex, with his live-in maid (Laura Linney) and her ten year old son for company. However, Holmes' greatest concern is not for the glory of the British Empire, but for his own fading powers....
Literally, Sherlock Holmes feels as if he's losing his mind.
But there's so much to love about this film, which develops Holmes as a rich and fully-developed character. (McKellen's Holmes spends much of the early film debunking his "myth", and the film fosters the notion that Holmes, for all his deductive genius, is still a regular human being). There is also - as with any Holmes movie - great moments of deduction, and part of the movie's charm is that one of Holmes' "lost" cases is the one that has the greatest impact....and which leads Holmes to a sterling realization.
But Condon does a masterful job in weaving and exploring a variety of themes: human connection, the frailties of the mind, our tendency to tell our own stories....this is a hard film to spoil, because anything I would disclose would not do the film justice.
The film may be running in secondary theatrical markets, with the impending DVD/Blu-Ray release. You really need to see this film. In a season of noisy, big-budget superhero/action films, Mr. Holmes has a quiet power that cannot - and should not - be ignored.