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Introducing Mr Holmes

By Alastair Pumb

Sherlock Holmes has been reimagined in so many forms over the years that it would take a fictional consulting detective with astute logical reasoning (and a possible opium addiction) to keep count. More than 70 actors have played the great man – at times deerstalkered, at times not – since 1900, with comic books, cartoons, radio plays and more adding to his myth. This is a character, bear in mind, that has been a mouse, a vampire and a contemporary of every era since his legacy was born. Currently, three men could comfortably be called “SHERLOCK!” in the street and would be obliged to turn around: Robert Downey Jr., Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch.

About to join that list is Sir Ian McKellen, best known for playing Magneto in the X-Men franchise, Gandalf in both the Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings trilogies, and, increasingly, for his colossal social media presence, typically mugging for the camera with his comrade-in-arms Sir Patrick Stewart. McKellen’s take on the detective’s detective is altogether different to those who have come before him: he’s 93 years old, he’s retired, he lives in rural Sussex, and he keeps bees.

Based on the novel A Slight Trick Of The Mind by American Sherlover Mitch Cullin, but renamed Mr. Holmes for the film, it sees the aged magnifying glass-wielder obsessed with retaining his senses and his youth – with his current fascination centring on the royal jelly produced by queen bees. This obsession takes him to Japan, and then back to his home, where he lives with his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker).

There are no great cases to solve or mysteries to unravel in the book, which serves more as an analysis of the deterioration brought about by age and the way it affects relationships and younger lives. It’s a thoughtful, sombre, fascinating, and at times very sad story that slips under your skin and will – in my case, at least – have you finding excuses for the tears sneaking down your cheeks.

Directed by Bill Condon, who has previously worked with McKellen on the Oscar-winning Gods And Monsters, the film itself is set for a late 2015 release. Though some of the darker elements will no doubt be tweaked for cinemas, the sight of the great acting knight playing a genuinely shaky-on-his-feet nonagenarian (complete with some startlingly old age make up and a false nose that rivals Gandalf’s) will still no doubt have audiences thinking about the one thing most refuse to acknowledge: the inevitability of death, even for Mr. Holmes.

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