Mr. Holmes ★★★

"Mr. Holmes," Bill Condon's portrait of an aged Sherlock Holmes, profits from a stellar performance by Ian McKellen as Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective at the end of his famous life. The story, a drama where Holmes pieces together some ill-remembered mysteries, may sag, but McKellen and castmates provide the film a vibrant burst of life.

Revolving around a late-in-life Sherlock, "Mr. Holmes" follows the now-retired detective living out his last years in the English countryside. Surrounded by his housekeeper and her son, Holmes wiles away his days, rethinking a mystery or two while tolerating the folks with whom he spends of his days.

The drama feels lethargic and is more notable for its premise, commentary on Holmes' meta-celebrity, and examination of mystery and storytelling. Its own story beats do not hold much weight compared to the general idea of an elderly Holmes, how the renowned character is regarded by those who know him only from is purported exploits, and how he, himself, assembles his memories.

McKellen is excellent, and Condon allows him the film's focus. Laura Linney spars against McKellen with aplomb, and the two make an engaging pair. Condon's landscapes are airy, and his compositions charm without being precious.

The success of "Mr. Holmes" is due primarily to the film's cast. Its leading man is remarkable, pumping the work full of life. While the narrative may lack punch, the players supply the zest needed to buoy the experience.

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