I had heard rumblings of this movie a while back, but only mildly. People mentioned after seeing early screenings that it was looking good, and Ian McKellen was phenomenal, but it had kind of went without note in the hive mind of the Internet. I honestly didn't even realize this movie was available in theaters, until my brother informed me. You see, he went out to see this movie about a week prior to the writing of this review, and he talked up such a storm about it, claiming "it might just be the best performance by Ian McKellen to date". Now that got my attention. I proceeded to see the film at my earliest opportunity, and I am so glad I did, as after seeing the film, I now realize why my brother made such a preposterous claim. Ian McKellan is an amazing actor, and though it's a tall order to say it, this truly might be his best performance ever.
The setting of this film begins in 1947 Britain, after the second World War. Sherolck is retired now, and he is pushing 90 plus years old. He lives by himself, aided only by a housekeeper and her son Roger. Trying to cope with Alzheimer's and the degradation of his memory, Sherlock sets out finishing the last of the novels written about his various exploits as a detective. The brilliance of this movie, is that he has to sort out his own memories to figure out the end of his last case, which present another layer of intrigue and mystery itself. A mystery within a mystery so to speak. Helping him to sort out these memories, and figure out his last case, is the young yet brilliant boy Roger (Milo Parker). They both share an affinity for sorting out details, and Sherlock begins to develop a kindred friendship with the boy. I will do my best to not spoil the complete story, but it's ultimately an excellent story involving very powerful themes. Tragedy, remorse, catharsis; it almost feels like you have watched, instead of read, a really great novel unfold.
These heavy themes are fortunately served with an excellent amount of witticism as well. Just because Sherlock is old, doesn't mean that he has suddenly lost all of his personality. In fact, I found his personality showcased even further in this way, as you have much more empathy for his character than ever before. A man who uses his mind as Sherlock does, knows his intellect is his most prized asset, and he has to deal with the loss of that. It's like reading a comic book story where a character's main power is stripped away. That hero then becomes more of an underdog, and you want him to succeed even more than you normally would. This is exactly how I felt about Sherlock in this film, and through the restoration of his memories, he also obtains excellent character growth.
The Narrative is also brilliantly woven together, and I found no plot holes by the films end. This really is an excellent outing by all the people involved in the making of this movie, and everyone is to be commended on the story they made. While its obviously not going to make the biggest numbers in the box-office, I wouldn't be surprised if this got a few Oscar nominations by next year. Case in point: Best Lead Actor nomination for Ian McKellen. While I don't know if he will obtain the Oscar for Best Leading Actor, as this year is gearing up to be huge for a number of actors, I will be shocked if he doesn't at least get nominated by next year. For this reason alone, I think the movie is more than worth the price of admission, even if it might be a tad slow in the beginning. That of which, would be my only slight complaint.
Go see this movie. If not in theaters at least rent it later, as I think this movie will really impress a lot of people later down the line.