Ian McKellen is shockingly good as the infamous Sherlock Holmes in this decidedly unorthodox twist on the sleuth's story. McKellen plays him as an aging man in his 90s, fighting memory loss and struggling to recall the details of a case that caused him to walk away from the detective life. He does this on an estate accompanied by his housekeeper (a typically wonderful Laura Linney), her son (the charming Milo Parker) and his bees. The film features flashbacks to 20 years earlier (which has McKellen playing somewhere in the vicinity of his actual age), with Holmes trying to remember the circumstances involving a beautiful woman, her husband and a Japanese man. Things are a little slow going at first, but when the pieces all get put together, it's a nice payoff. Director Bill Condon (miles away from his pitiful stint on the Twilight series) has made a film full of sumptuous visuals, splendid acting and good humor. McKellen plays Holmes as a dignified, if sometimes nasty, older man who never wore that silly hat or smoked that huge pipe. In an interesting twist, his character is actually world famous and the subject of movies he considers garbage. The year has been a little light on great performances so far. McKellen's is certainly one of them. His interactions with Linney and Parker are classically good. Condon and McKellen worked together before (Gods and Monsters). This stands as a much welcomed reunion.