See How They Run
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A meta send up of murder mysteries set in London’s West End during the 1950s, See How They Run is about the making of a movie version of a hit play, which suddenly goes off the rails when a key crew member is murdered. It’s up to an eager police officer, Constable Walker, and the imperturbable Inspector Stoppard to solve the mystery before anyone else falls victim.
The star-studded cast includes lead Sam Rockwell (Jojo Rabbit) and Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), as well as Adrien Brody (The French Dispatch), Ruth Wilson (His Dark Materials), Reece Shearsmith (High Rise), Harris Dickinson (Where the Crawdads Sing), and David Oyelowo (Selma).
A cheeky and often farcical whodunit, See How They Run is laugh-out-loud funny, full of great actors, surprising, and – if you can believe it – based on a true story.
That story is about Agatha Christie’s famous stage murder mystery, The Mousetrap, which was supposed to become a film, except Christie stipulated that the movie version could only happen six months after the play closed. The play is still going, so the film never happened.
To make it happen, producer Damian Jones decided to create a fictional whodunit about the whodunit, and turn the film rights themselves into a plot point in the story.
You don’t have to be into whodunits or theater lore to get into it. The movie captures your attention within the first few minutes with narration by a crude American director, Leo Köpernick (played by Brody) who introduces a colorful range of characters, all of them British. They include infamous Inspector Stoppard (Rockwell), who, from his first appearance, makes it abundantly clear that he’s a broken man with no interest in this case. He flashes arrogant displays of his wit and experience, sometimes at the expense of straight-laced rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), who’s excited to be on the case.
Constable was a big draw for me. An ambitious single mother during the 50s in a male dominated field, she’s anxiously studying to pass her police exam. I have to admit that I’ve been a fan of Saoirse Ronan since her stand-out role in Lovely Bones, and I found myself rooting for her to solve the case and show that she could match the highly-touted Inspector Stoppard.
The unlikely Stoppard and Stalker buddy-cop relationship evolves during the investigation, until it reaches a moment where their partnership is questioned. This keeps the audience interested in not only who the murderer is but how these two will solve the case together.
Director Tom George uses a distinct visual and narrative style, some of which will remind you of Wes Anderson, with clever shots and character perspectives to mislead the audience and leave us wondering who the culprit is.
The story lags a bit during the second act, as more details unfold about the two lead characters. But by act three, things pick up again, and as the murderer is slowly revealed, there’s a plot twist that I think the audience won’t be ready for.
The film ends on an upbeat note, and once the credits start to role, you’ll say to yourself, “I should’ve known that was the murderer!”
As we say goodbye to Angela Lansbury, this Agatha Chrystie homage and send-up is a fun and funny escape with just enough mystery and twists to keep you immersed. The visual world and captivating cast make it worth the big screen experience.
With its PG-13 rating, all-star cast, and comedy, this one works as a fun night out with friends or family, or even a date night. And for fans of Knives Out or Death on the Nile, this is right up the alley.
In See How They Run, the end of the play is shown without revealing the murderer. Instead, Richard Attenborough warns the audience that watching the play makes them participants in a murder, and if they were to tell anyone who did it, they’d be subject to legal action.