Slight, but satisfying. Bill Condon’s sentimental muse on the great detective in his dotage unpacks a trio of mysteries in solving the puzzle of Sherlock himself, before mind & body betray him. Splitting focus between his professional past in London; a search for mental rejuvenation in Japan; and a plan to hold on to a dignified seaside retirement; the film is less interested in dazzling ratiocination than in uncovering jolts of humanity in the aging eccentric. Naturally, with Holmes at 93, the game afoot is a stroll, a pastorale, chamber music that leans on past themes. While handsomely laid out, and beautifully crafted, it largely gets its effects thru pitch-perfect casting, especially in the interplay between a failing Holmes and his housekeeper’s wilful young son, refreshingly played by Milo Parker. As Holmes, Ian McKellen seems to have not only borrowed John Gielgud’s considerable nose for the role, but also his considerable manner, to his obvious delight, and ours.* And in the current Holmesian climate of non-stop CGI & ADHD, a successful film of this modest size is no small thing.
DOUBLE-BILL: Billy Wilder’s witty & melancholy THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES/’70 brings an earlier romantic failure to light, though on a much larger scale. With Robert Stephens’ Holmes a thing of legend.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/LINK: *Sir Ian may have had Sir John in the back of his mind since a whole BBC series was done with Gielgud as Holmes, no less than Ralph Richardson as Dr. Watson, and, in one memorable instance, Orson Welles as Prof. Moriarty! Follow the link to explore: http://www.openculture.com/2016/04/hear-the-new-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes-the-vintage-radio-drama-starring-john-gielgud-orson-welles-ralph-richardson.html