Film Review: See How They Run
See How They Run
Director: Tom George
In Theaters 09.16
The “Whodunnit” is a tried-and-true genre that usually works on some level, regardless of the who, or even what it is they’ve done. But if they’ve done what they did while speaking in an English accent, so much the better. See How They Run takes full advantage of these truths by putting itself right in the middle of the most popular drawing-room murder case ever solved on the British stage.
The setting for See How They Run is London’s West End, circa the 1950s, and the hottest ticket in town is Agatha Christie‘s The Mousetrap, a hit play that features young star Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson, The King’s Man, Where The Crawdads Sing), and is about to be adapted for the big screen. These plans come to a screeching halt when a key member of the film’s production team is murdered, and every one involved with both the film and the play quickly becomes both a suspect and a potential victim. It’s up to a veteran detective, Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), and an enthusiastic rookie, Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) to discover the identity of the killer before they strike again.
See How They Run is a clever and infectiously fun riff on live theatre, cinema, and above all, the mystery genre. The script by Mark Chapell (Flaked) is filled with a wry wit that’s sharp enough to use as a murder weapon. Director Tom George (Mickey & Michaela Bury Their Dad) establishes a strong visual style that gets the most out of creative staging, including the best sight gag I’ve ever seen in the genre. Fans of The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in the West End’s history, are going to quickly lose count trying to spot all of the references that Chappell has worked into the film, from character names to mentions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, from which the title of The Mousetrap originated. Slick editing, crisp cinematography and Oscar-quality costume design all combine to make See How They Run a visual treat, and the gleefully atmospheric score by Daniel Pemberton (The Trial of the Chicago 7) sets the mood perfectly. George shoots the film in a 1.85: 1 aspect ratio, putting staging ahead of overly ambitious camera work. The effective use of cutaways to a wider aspect ratio for side-by-side frames of action happening in “real time” keeps the film visually arresting, no pun intended. Those who watch the trailer and are hoping for the overtly slapstick of Clue might be a little disappointed, though I suspect that most will quickly get over it rather quickly.
It certainly doesn’t hurt See How They Run that Rockwell and Ronan are two of Hollywood’s most likable stars, and both bring their A game. Ronan’s Constable Stalker is such a uniquely appealing character that the film could easily rest on her shoulders alone, though the ensemble cast provides plenty of capable backup with Dickinson, as well as Adrien Brody as Leo Köpernick, the film’s director, and David Oyelowo as screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris, getting some nice chances to shine.
See How They Run isn’t a heavy hitter or a wildly innovative film, it’s a celebratory throwback and homage to a golden age of British noir, with an emphasis on a love for the stage. If you’re looking to get sucked into a good story and enjoy the transportive power of a darkened theater, let me give you a clue: don’t walk, run to your local movie house to crack this delightfully diverting case wide open. –Patrick Gibbs