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Mr. Holmes by Carter Burwell (Review)

posted Jul 26, 2015, 2:27 PM by Koray Savas

Mr. Holmes is the pseudo-contemporary twist on one of the most famous literary characters of our time. Set in 1947, the film follows Holmes as he struggles to deal with the world's misconception of his personality due to Dr. Watson's writings. Ian McKellen stars as the titular character, who is also grappling with a 50-year old unsolved case. Bill Condon directs this period piece and brings long-time collaborator Carter Burwell on to score.

Burwell is a woefully underrated and underused composer. This is his first film score since 2013, during which he was rejected on both Gangster Squad and Thor: The Dark World, and scored Condon's The Fifth Estate. The latter was an underwhelming departure in style for Burwell, so it is a great pleasure to hear him return to form for Mr. Holmes. His music here permeates a lovely elegance with just a slight tinge of ambiguity and mystery. Dominated by lush strings and piano, the score's beauty transports you to the English countryside in which part of the film is set. Running 39 minutes, Burwell never tests your patience and the album flows delightfully from beginning to end. Despite the shorter runtime, the texture and color of the orchestrations feel defined and developed, the music has a great weight and heave to it that is really enticing and pleasant. The main theme is melodic yet simple enough to weave throughout the body of the score. You will hear it often but it never feels like it is intruding because of how Burwell built the score on top of it.

Mr. Holmes is Carter Burwell's best score in years. The fullness of the music will always leave you satisfied, making it trump some of his more sparser and lighter works from recent projects. The subject matter of the film really allowed him to develop something truly concrete and deliver a dramatic listening experience in his traditional sound.