To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, See How They Run is a murder mystery meta-comedy film directed by Tom George (Defending the Guilty) from a screenplay written by Mark Chappell (Flaked). Featuring Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, and David Oyelowo. The story follows Constable Stalker and Inspector Stoppard as they attempt to solve the murder of Leo Köpernick, an American movie director hired to film an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap.
In the West End of London in 1953 Hollywood director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) narrates about how Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap is a second-rate murder mystery, even though he has not seen it personally. His feelings are if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. After breaking down how a whodunit works Köpernick mentions that the public still loves the play and that it continues to make a lot of money. We then see the producer of the play Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson) receiving a telegram from Agatha Christie stating that she will not be attending the afterparty. As the play ends the messenger delivering the telegram bumps into a stagehand (Charlie Cooper) causing him to be hit in the head by a falling sandbag.
Later at a party celebrating the 100th performance of The Mousetrap, Köpernick introduces the audience to the producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith) who wishes to turn the play into a movie, his paranoid wife actress Edana Romney (Sian Clifford), and himself. Next, he introduces writer Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo), married actors Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda) and Dickie Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), and Petula’s mother (Ania Marson). After hitting on Sheila, Köpernick gets into a fight with her husband destroying a cake in the process. After going backstage for a change of clothes Köpernick is murdered by a masked assailant.
Murder mysteries are fun to watch and figure out, but as Köpernick says in the film “if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.” Since the genre has become somewhat stale most writers tend to infuse something extra to give the story a well-needed boost. There’s the Rashomon effect, named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, where the individuals involved in the same incident provide different perspectives and points of view. There’s also the unreliable narrator where the narrator’s unreliability is made immediately evident with delusional statements or is realized near the story’s end after more information comes to light. Then there is the breaking of the fourth wall where the narrator speaks and looks directly at the audience about ongoing events.
See How They Run infuses all three of these tropes into its story and the film is better for it. Tom George crafts a fun whodunit that the audience can feel like they are a part of as well as watching. The characters speak to the audience at times and scene transitions happen at the characters’ behest. This way when the old tropes inevitably rear their ugly heads, it’s all a part of the comedy. There are also funny callbacks throughout the second half film of things mentioned by characters in the beginning. While I wouldn’t say it’s hard to figure out who the killer is, the meta-comedy does make the viewer rethink the obvious choice multiple times. This creates a better mystery as the more doubt the viewer has the harder it is to nail down the character that did it.
The best part of the film is the chemistry between Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell. We spend most of our time with them since it becomes evident that they are the main characters after a misleading opening scene. Ronan portrays Constable Stalker as a green but intelligent detective. She writes everything down and is very knowledgeable about film and pop culture. This adds a lot to the humor of the film as she knows a lot about the prime suspects which is everyone involved with the play. Rockwell on the other hand portrays Inspector Stoppard as depressed and world-weary yet informed from his many years on the force. Seeing them work together as a team while keeping their relationship plutonic is fun to see and hopefully, we get more of this in future films.
The meta humor and fourth wall breaking make this murder mystery feel like a fresh take on the genre. The chemistry between Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell elevates the story and the comedy for the better. I give See How They Run a Decent 7.5/10. Like Knives Out before it, this film has the makings of a franchise on its hands as I would love to see Constable Stalker and Inspector Stoppard solve more cases around London with a fresh new crop of suspects to question.