See How They Run is a deliciously clever whodunnit with added Mouse Trap
4 out of 5
I'm a big fan of whodunnits. I'm not a fan of the Agattha Christie variety, the Hercule Poirot Murder on The Orient Express story. I did like Rian Johnson's Knives out and I'm looking forward to his new Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery which will continue the adventures of Benoit Blanc later this year on Netflix.
See How They Run is the new film from director Tom George and writer Mark Chappell. On the lit-up streets of London’s West End in the ’50s, the famed play, penned by thriller Agatha Christie, The Mousetrap, celebrates its hundredth performance. However, the festivities are cut short once the body of the slippery Hollywood director, Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody), is found.
See How They Run follows the efforts of Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) as the two try to crack the case, piecing together Leo’s last moments, and eyeing a hefty list of suspects who all had reason enough to ‘take care’ of Mr Hollywood. Seems pretty standard for the genre, right? Well, See How They Run, despite some script faults, for the most part, manages to subtly subvert expectations by almost parodying whodunits itself.
As the film progresses, we learn that Leo was originally tasked to direct the film version of The Mousetrap once its run on the West End finished. This idea of making a murder mystery film in See How They Run is then used as a vessel for its characters to point out the tropes of the genre to the audience in an organic way. In one scene, the film's proposed writer remonstrates the use of flashbacks in film and declares to all "Next it will say 'Three weeks later'" and the next frame it says, well, you get the isea. As the cast continue to discuss what they want to avoid in their film, they themselves fall into the typical trappings of the genre resulting in some grade-A comedy that any fans of murder mysteries will love.
The cast chemistry between Rockwell and Ronan is also infectious, as the two’s back and forth never leaves a dull moment on screen. Similarly, Brody’s performance as our victim/ narrator is a standout feature, with Leo capturing attention whenever he makes an appearance. Cast and atmosphere aside, See How They Run does ultimately fumble when it comes to story progression.
Like any good whodunit, here there are twists, reveals, and of course, the red herring. Thanks to hit drama movies such as the aforementioned Knives Out, we expect to see intricate pay-outs as audiences, with clues being planted continuously in the story for that big scene when everything is put together in a massive ‘gotcha’ moment by the detectives at the end of the film.
A big part of this issue with crafting the script likely stems from the subject matter of See How They Run itself. For those who may not know, Agatha Christie’s estate is very protective over the story of The Mousetrap play and its ending, and as such, See How They Run – which uses Christie’s work as the centre of its mystery – is very careful in sidestepping the plot of the play.
However, suppose you are like me, and have never seen or read The Mousetrap before? In that case, for me there ere some eyebrow-raising moments, plot twists that made me say ‘huh?’, and some reveals that didn’t feel as impactful as they should have since, at the end of the day, it felt like I was missing a big chunk of the story.
Saoirse Ronan as the deliriously overeager Constable Stalker is consistently brilliant, and carries the most of the film’s best and funniest moments. Sam Rockwell’s Inspector Stoppard, however, feels like a huge missed opportunity. A gruff veteran with a drinking problem, Stoppard’s alcoholism leaves him not as a tragic or a comic figure, but more like your mate who had one too many and has run out of interesting things to say. But, despite my lack of Mousetrap knowledge and the film’s questionable climax, See How They Run is undoubtedly a good time. A light-hearted watch packed with charm and a stacked talented cast, we can forgive most of its mistakes because, yes, it is just that delightful.