SEE HOW THEY RUN (2022)
Starring Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, David Oyelowo, Harris Dickinson, Charlie Cooper, Shirley Henderson, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Pearl Chanda, Paul Chahidi, Sian Clifford, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Lucian Msamati and Tim Key.
Screenplay by Mark Chappell.
Directed by Tom George.
Distributed by Searchlight Pictures. 98 minutes. Rated PG-13.
There has been a bit of resurgence in the old-fashioned British parlor mystery – not that they ever really went anywhere. A couple of years ago, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out became a smash hit just by taking a comic raised eyebrow look at classic whodunits. To a lesser extent, Kenneth Branagh’s slightly broad remakes of the old Agatha Christie standards Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile also added humor to the classic structure.
Now comes See How They Run – just slightly beating the Knives Out sequel Glass Onion to the people, which was undoubtedly by design. See How They Run is a sweet and funny nostalgic celebration of the genre – I just wish it had a little more to say and a mystery which was a little more intriguing.
Agatha Christie – the godmother of this form – is involved in this film, as well. Of course, it is not anything she wrote, she is more the subject and a character of this film, although a character who is offscreen throughout. See How They Run revolves around the 1953 London production of Christie’s play The Mousetrap, which had become a huge success and was being groomed to be a motion picture.
Christie is not the only real-life character who is part of this fictional murder. Mousetrap actors Richard Attenborough (now possibly best remembered as the creator of Jurassic Park), Edana Romney and Sheila Sim, producer John Wolff and Christie’s husband Max Mallowan all make appearances in the rogue’s gallery.
The story is simple and complex and slightly convoluted in equal measures. Essentially, The Mousetrap is the hit of the West End. Plans for a film adaptation were in the works, with a slimy filmmaker named Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) tagged to be the director. However, Kopernick hated mysteries and wanted to change the whole enterprise. Besides, the film becoming a success would undoubtedly capsize the theatrical production.
Kopernick is murdered. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, it happens in the opening section of the film.) Jaded Scotland Yard detective Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and his naïve and trusting Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) are put in charge of bringing the culprit to justice.
Not that the mystery is the main concern in See How They Run. The film is quite markedly a post-modern comedy, a loving lampoon of the style. Thus you have self-aware winks at the audience – like when a playwright (David Oyelewo) suggests that the most cliched thing you can do in a mystery is have a plot flashback take place “Three months earlier…” and the film immediately cuts to a chyron reading that exact thing. Or there is the late chase scene where people are popping in and out of doors and just missing each other like something out of a French bedroom farce.
See How They Run is obviously a labor of love. Therefore, it’s a bit of a shame to point out that while the film is perfectly enjoyable and often lots of fun, it really does not have much to say about the style it is lampooning. Knives Out took a cutting and modern look at old detective fiction tropes, making it intriguing on multiple levels, not just as a parody, or even as a mystery.
This film, on the other hand, is completely retro. It could have just as easily been made in 1953, or most any time between. It feels like an old-fashioned romp of a play, a Noises Off type of confection which moves quickly and agilely, but in the long run has little that sticks to the ribs.
See How They Run will find a pretty appreciative audience in the fans of such mysteries. However, unlike Knives Out, I don’t see it crossing over to a much larger audience.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 16, 2022.