See How They Run is a hoot for any big-time fans of murder mysteries despite a few fumbles.
Since coming into the mainstream in the ’30s, whodunits have continued to delight film fans with their twists, turns, and of course, cold-blooded murders. For decades filmmakers and writers have kept us entertained with shocking crime tales, and the latest entry to the genre, See How They Run, certainly lives up to the whodunits reputation for captivating our morbid curiosity.
The feature directorial debut of Tom George, See How They Run, is an eye-catching take on murder mysteries, putting a comedic and meta-style twist to the typical beats we’d come to expect from a detective movie. On the lit-up streets of London’s West End in the ’50s, the famed play, penned by thriller connoisseur 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 (Saorise 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 thriller movie 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. As the movie’s 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.
In this aspect, it is easy to get on board George’s love letter to the genre as its humour is a wink to the classics, while its cinematography is an idealised version of the glitz and glamour of the showbiz industry in the ’50s. Equally, there is no denying that you’ll get swept away by the fun atmosphere and nudge-nudge style of jokes in See How They Run.
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 in the action movie, with Leo capturing attention whenever he makes an appearance. But, 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 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.
Unfortunately, See How They Run, despite adhering to this formula, fails to deliver the satisfying punch we all expect. Reveals and suspicious tangents seem a bit forced, and without giving too much away, one arrest’s motivation is so thin that it borders on ludicrous.
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, who has never seen or read The Mousetrap before. In that case, this resulted in some eyebrow-raising moments, plot twists that made me say ‘huh?’, and some reveals that didn’t feel as impactful as they should of since, at the end of the day, it felt like I was missing a big chunk of the story.
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.
However – I will still recommend learning from my experiences. Before you head to the cinema, if you want the whole narrative experience instead of a bare-bones pay-out, put your theatre cap on and get familiar with The Mousetrap, fellow cinephiles.
See How They Run hits theatres on September 9, 2022, in the UK and is set to release in the US on September 16, 2022. For more top picks, here is our list of the best comedy movies and the best movies of all time.