Not the Sherlock we know.
Charming and disarming, heartfelt and heartbreaking, Mr. Holmes’s elegant look at an ageing 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes is quite unlike anything else you've seen from the Great Detective.Perhaps you subscribe to Benedict Cumberbatch’s razor-sharp Moffat/Gattiss Sherlock, or Guy Ritchie’s fun Downey Jr-driven US film series – both of which are due a return, eventually. Maybe you will never forget Jeremy Brett’s classic, arguably definitive, interpretation or argue that Basil Rathbone holds that position. Whatever your view, Bill Condon’s take is a very different animal, sidestepping the classic trappings of the character to tread an interesting middle-ground in its attempt at ‘factual’ fiction. Here, Mr. Holmes distinguishes itself from (what it posits as) the ‘fiction’ of the life of the ‘real’ Sherlock Holmes; his famous tales actually merely the embellished recollections of his grandest cases as reimagined by partner-in-crime, Dr. Watson - oftentimes far from the truth. And with an almost doddering, long-retired Holmes approaching the closing chapter of his life, he struggles to trawl his fading memory for the details of his last great case, and thus the reasons why he finally left his beloved profession.Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, Mr. Holmes is brought to life by a rich and (un)surprisingly nuanced performance from the legendary Ian McKellen. Although even with the best makeup/effects on hand there is some slight struggle to convincingly establish the 30 year gap between the two (of three) timelines that the film posits, the same cannot be said for McKellen’s performance, which ranges from quintessentially Holmesian in every respect, to the kind of strikingly fragile, ageing wreck that nobody wanted to ever see the great Sherlock become. It’s a strong dual performance, bringing a touching side to the almost impenetrably aloof patron saint of logic, with age threatening to steal every last bit of that great mind. Although far from the gripping detective story one might understandably expect from the character, the mystery tale – particularly in its interposed timelines – still proves compelling in its ruminations on character, kindness and compassion and, of course, mortality.
Picture QualityMr. Holmes hits Region B-locked UK Blu-ray a couple of weeks before it’s Region A-locked US counterpart, with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen.
But for a brief CG backdrop that looks slightly jarring (to be fair the alien landscape of a post-bomb Hiroshima was always going to look, well, alien, but some of the blame has to go to the CG, which leaves it wavering on the edge of looking like it’s out of an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series), the film promotes several gorgeous landscapes and lush green backdrops which are rendered to perfection.
Mr. Holmes looks largely excellent in HD; the quintessentially English landscape brought beautifully to life.
Detail remains excellent throughout, providing rich textures and acute observations on the lead cast – not least McKellen, whose every line and crag; every bit of patchy ageing skin is keenly and unglamorously revealed. The colour scheme is subtle, natural and warm, cherishing the aforementioned lush tones, but evading overt and unnatural primaries and vibrant tones which would otherwise look out of place in the period environments. Black levels are strong and, whilst there are scant few night-time sequences, there’s still no overt crush on offer. Overall an excellent job.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does an impressive job with material, providing a restrained but rich accompaniment.
Dialogue is promoted clearly and coherently across the front and centre channels, taking priority – as you would only expect given the subject-matter and style of the piece – with McKellen’s distinctive tones narrating, guiding and defining the piece. Effects are largely reserved for atmosphere and ambience, with buzzing bees and wasps providing a surprisingly effective drive for surround usage, whilst trains, planes and automobiles allows for brief, more direct effects. The elegiac, orchestral score perfectly matches the tone of the feature, and provides further welcome material for the track to disseminate across the array. Whilst hard to quite label as outright demo, perhaps because of the restrictive nature of the material, there’s no denying that this is a strong aural accompaniment that ticks all the right boxes.
ExtrasAside from a number of Preview Trailers which hit you on startup, this release boasts a dozen or so interview segments with the main cast and crew members.
Presenting a different side to the Holmes we know, this elegant, understated affair is a thoughtful mystery drama.
Mr. Holmes arrives on Region B UK ahead of its Region A US counterpart, boasting excellent video and audio, and a salvo of interview clips from the main cast and crew. Fans of the Great Detective shouldn't regard this as just another case - it's a far more intimate study of the failing of a great mind, driven by a typically impressive performance from Ian McKellen.
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