See How They Run, 2022.
Directed by Tom George.
Starring Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Reece Shearsmith, Adrien Brody, David Oyelowo, Ruth Wilson, Charlie Cooper, Sian Clifford, Harris Dickinson, and Pearl Chanda.
In the West End of 1950s London, plans for a movie version of a smash-hit play come to an abrupt halt after a pivotal member of the crew is murdered.
Whodunits have gripped audiences for decades, often riffing on elements drawn from Agatha Christie’s Marple or Poirot novels and culminating in the suspects rounded up in a room to be told who the killer is. The whodunit on screen has seen something of a revival in the last few years with Kenneth Branagh’s financially (if not critically) successful Poirot adaptations finding an audience and of course Rian Johnson’s stellar Knives Out a rip-roaring success, with a sequel just around the corner.
The latest whodunit to grace the big screen is the much anticipated See How They Run from This Country’s Tom George. The film charts a murder after a party to celebrate the 100th showing of Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, with film director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) the victim. Every one involved in the planned film adaptation seems to have a motive to do in Köpernick who had a unique ability to make enemies.
The film itself is set against the backdrop of the Mousetrap, perhaps one of the most famous whodunits of them all, and still going strong on the West End. The film’s cast is of course one of its main draws boasting Hollywood heavyweights Sam Rockwell as Inspector Stoppard, Saoirse Ronan as Constable Stalker and a who’s who of British film and television rounding out the cast including Inside No 9’s Reece Shearsmith, Luther’s Ruth Wilson, Fleabag’s Sian Clifford, rising star Harris Dickinson playing Richard Attenborough and David Oyelowo in a delightful turn as playwright Mervyn Cocker-Norris.
There is a sheer sense of fun, abandon and infectious energy pumping through the film’s veins and the interplay between Rockwell and Ronan especially is nothing short of delightful as they spar, with Stalker’s over-enthusiasm offset by Stoppard’s more sleazy attitude to detective work. The razor sharp script from Mark Chappell is delivered with aplomb by the leads. Ronan here is given an opportunity to show her abilities as a comedic actress which have been glimpsed in her work with Wes Anderson. Outside our central pair the cast manage to make the most of relatively light screen time with it being a hefty ensemble, Ruth Wilson’s sharp Petula Spencer and Shearsmith’s John Woolf particular standouts.
All involved clearly love the genre which it both pokes fun at but is also reverential to, sending up many classic clichés and expected story beats while still managing to deliver an intriguing investigation of its own with its fair share of twists and turns. While of course referencing numerous novel and screen works of Agatha Christie, there are shades of Hitchcock with the 1950s setting and Dial M For Murder earning a mention and moments of physical comedy call to mind Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther films.
The 50s setting helps to differentiate the film from contemporary detective fiction and bring the comparisons to Christie’s work to the fore. Credit must go to the production design team who have brought to life the early 1950s West End in style and Daniel Pemberton’s jazz infused score helps drive the action. There is also a luscious use of Richard Hawley’s Born Under a Bad Sign perfectly complimenting the mood of the film, in a particularly melancholic moment.
See How They Run is an entertaining, often hilarious twist on the whodunit, making the most of its 50s setting whilst paying homage to and poking fun at the classic works of the genre. The cast are clearly having an excellent time and there are some nice stylistic flourishes that call to mind films of the 50s and 60s with some rapid cuts. Comparisons to Wes Anderson are understandable with the colour palette and comedy reminiscent of some of his works, not to mention the fact Brody and Ronan are regulars of his, but this is a criticism the film circumvents, proving its own beast and a standout in a genre that’s had its fair share of classics over the years. There’s still life in the whodunit yet.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★