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'Mr Holmes' - Review

22/06/2015 14:17 BST | Updated 21/06/2016 10:59 BST

If Christopher Nolan wrote and directed a Sherlock Holmes film, chances are it would look like Mr Holmes, the new movie from director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters).

The story gives us a fresh take on the Baker Street legend, from his attire (no deerstalker) to his London address (opposite 221b Baker St).

There's no Mrs Hudson, Inspector Lestrade and very little Watson. A bold take on a well worn character but hugely rewarding.

It's also a slow burner of a film, jumping around timelines like a certain Gallifreyan in a phone box.

The tale of a grieving husband concerned about his wife is one of the plot threads woven into the fabric of the screenplay. However, the heart of it involves the relationship between Holmes, young Roger and his wary housekeeper mother.

The latter is brilliantly played by Laura Linney, so convincing as an uneducated Brit, I had no idea it was her until the closing credits rolled.

Yes, I know she's mentioned in the opening credits too, but I was so engrossed in Ian McKellen's performance throughout, I forgot about the supporting cast.

His ability to play two different ages (93 and younger) so convincingly, without resorting to doddery stereotype, was staggering.

His face is a relief map of emotion, every wheeze and grimace adds depth to the character. McKellen's turn here is among his greatest.

For anyone who's looked after a sick grandfather or parent, it's hard not empathise with certain scenes.

The great detective has never seemed so vulnerable or frail on screen.

If there's any justice, McKellen will walk off with well deserved Baftas and Oscars next year.

There's a good chance Milo Parker will also be in the running for award gold in 2016, most promising newcomer probably.

His Roger is witty, moving and self assured, generating a brilliant dynamic with the seasoned star, yet never being overshadowed.

Things get a little meta when Sherlock attends a movie version of one of his cases, the screen Holmes played by Nicholas Rowe of Young Sherlock Holmes fame, reprising the star-making role after three decades. It's a nice touch, and while the film is thankfully devoid of chases, action scenes and explosions, it could have done with a little more oomph in the second act to resurrect my flagging interest.

Solid support comes from Roger Allam, Frances De La Tour, Frances Barber, John Sessions and Phil Davis.

Well worth a look, but would work as well on blu ray or DVD as on the big screen.