Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mr. Holmes (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Mr. Holmes

Once again, Holmes is here in Bill Condon's wondrous and thoughtful character study of the premier detective. Sherlock's conundrum is not Moriarty, but the human heart. Deceptively slow and easy in its first moments, the film gradually builds up speed, only to churn with punch and poignance.

In "Mr. Holmes" our iconic sleuth (Ian McKellen)  is now a nonagenarian at 92. He lives in Sussex, (where the poet Shelley was born) and spends his mornings minding the geometry of his apiary.

There is abrupt foreshadowing: the bee population is in decline.

Holmes is centered on himself, ruminating on his trips to Hiroshima in the quest to find Prickly Ash, an eastern root said to help Holmes's ailing memory. Roger (Milo Parker)  a young resident of the house, worships him and attempts to wake his spirits of deduction. The retired logician tells him of a regret. Years ago, he was hired to keep an eye on one Lady in Grey (Hattie Morahan) who was in the throes of a female "Svengali" a Madame Schirmer (Frances de la Tour). Holmes treated the detail casually and is eaten up by guilt.

More immediately, Holmes is hounded by the specter of celebrity and feels his partner Dr. Watson simplified his legacy into that of an exaggerated hero. He wants to set his record into the realm of nonfiction.

This story would be a slumber in the mist were it not for the simplicity of vision by the director coupled by some wonderful chemistry given by McKellen and Milo Parker.  Laura Linney too, gives a spirited performance as the watchful parent.

We are given a handful of subplots with their own unique momentum and all of them spin and weave to make one intricate box that fits together perfectly as if made by Gordian design.
In reality, Holmes is a quiet figure. He walks like a stiff pencil and eschews the limelight, all the while getting a kick out of his cinematic self in watching Basil Rathbone. And like Mattie, in "True Grit", or Joey in "Shane" a young kid attempts to energize a somewhat jaded soul who has solved many imponderables.

Yet Holmes remains restless in a good deal of pain.

The suspense is in the reality of Sherlock Holmes racing against his mental moors as he strives to give his own true account. If by peril, his false matinee twin wins out, his import will be left to the stuff of dreams with a legacy in tatters.

Longtime fans will revel in the drawing room quips, in addition to the sight of Sherlock  trying to employ his iconic opium syringes to sustain his life, filled with herbs.

The magic of "Mr. Holmes" is that it makes this detective more dramatic and realistic that his Arthur Conan Doyle incarnation ever did, while at the same time, treating his other persona with a comic reverence that is never mean spirited. Ecce Holmes. We see the man as he is, a mathematical being, of course, but also one of emotion.

The last scene is by itself, a master stroke, delivering equal parts mysticism, mayhem and stern melancholy.

All aspects of haunt and play are given with great energy in this modernist portrait of one famous man who lives by reason.

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