Arriving in theaters from Fox Searchlight is the new would-be whodunnit period piece starring Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan See How They Run. Taking more than just inspiration from Agatha Christie and her play The Mousetrap, See How They Run sets out with the tasks of being as meta as possible. But are the steps that director Tom George take work in service of the story, or do the trappings of 1950’s London prove too much of a pull towards affecting the style?
Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) starts us off by introducing the audience to the surroundings, but he is then promptly attacked while still in the opening act of the film. Happening backstage at a celebration for the 100th performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. And yes, Christie is actually a character in a movie that’s loosely based on a play that is also featured heavily in the film. Assigned to the case by the police commissioner (Tim Key), Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) rolls on the scene where he is met by the overeager and very intense Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), completely living up to her on-the-nose moniker. Having been paired up with Stalker to work the case, Stoppard must investigate and run through the rogue gallery of suspects all while trying to keep his charge from leaping to giant assumptions.
Where See How They Run desperately wants to come off as a successor to films like Murder on the Orient Express and Knives Out, only the film falls flat in the actual whodunnit aspect of the story. There’s not enough devoted to developing an intriguing and provoking mystery as the film opts to spend too much time just traveling along with its characters and living in their spaces. This is fine for a character study or a straight drama for sure, but a mystery needs to actively and believably manipulate and intrigue the audience enough to unravel the mystery. But as See How They Run hits its conclusion, instead of picking up my jaw like my first viewing of Knives Out, I was rolling my eyes hard as I could not believe they actually went there.
Sure it’s fun to watch Sam Rockwell completely forget that he’s in an Agatha Christie-inspired romp, opting to eschew the format of a typical Christie investigator. Instead, his Stoppard becomes more and mix of Peter Falk’s Columbo and a boozy Jack Sparrow wandering around London picking up clues seemingly out of nowhere. Ronan is fine as the overeager sidekick and bane of Stoppard’s current existence. It’s a role that seems pried out of a Wes Anderson film and shoehorned in here for effect.
The film also features some other familiar faces like the aforementioned Adrien Brody, David Oyelowo, Harris Dickinson actually playing a fictitious version of the very real David Attenborough, and Harry Potter‘s Shirley Henderson playing Christie herself. But the standout of the supporting cast here is easily Ruth Wilson, who seems to have discovered the type of film this was well before anyone else does, and has an absolute blast just chewing scenery throughout.
The set direction and wardrobe departments are just killers here as 1950’s London comes alive in the film, though admittedly a much cleaner version than what was likely the case in London at the time. This work, plus the genuine fun most of the actors seem to behave with here elevates this film from the basement it could have landed in with the script’s shortcomings, to something much more fun to watch. But the lack of an actual mystery and poor ending hold this film back from me giving it a hearty recommendation. While it still succeeds in having some fun along the way, in the end, See How They Run will fade from most audience memories, and theater screens, in the not-too-distant future
- Release Date: 9/16/2022