Tuesday, August 11, 2015
The story isn't the greatest Sherlock Holmes mystery ever, if anything it seems overly contrived at times, but McKellan's acting, along with Laura Linney's and Milo Parker (brilliant young actor), and the beautiful cinematography make it well worth seeing.
The story is a bit of what they used to call post-modern fiction, even meta fiction, with many of the favorite devices born of that trend, including this film being based on a novel written long after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the character Sherlock Holmes was alive, with the conceit that Holmes was a real person, and detective, and the stories about him were written by his friend Doctor Watson, who embellished or polished the real Holmes's image.
So it's a story about the later life of a fictional character portrayed as real but notorious from his fictional best friend's fiction about real cases, that of course were created originally by another writer entirely etc. Endlessly unreliable narrator, as they used to say, or something like it. But the story is simple enough and the settings obvious enough to convey the general idea about aging and loss and regret and redemption to make the film work when enacted by such brilliant performers.
And I'm a sucker for redemptive stories. As another detective story writer, Raymond Chandler, once said "in everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption."