There’s plenty to focus on when it comes to whodunits, and Tom George’s latest feature, See How They Run, written by Mark Chappell, expects its audience to work a bit even while it ensures there are a bunch of laughs along the way. It’s by no means a faultless film, and it could be forgettable for some viewers, but it’s delightful enough to call it a must-watch murder mystery for fans of the genre.
Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan lead the film as Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker, reluctant parrot partners in an overtly meta tactic to bring genre conventions front and center. And if one thing is evident right from the start, George is undoubtedly a fan of the genre and directors like Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Rian Johnson (Knives Out). There’s no doubt that autumn is the most appropriate time of year for murder mysteries (even when it’s always relevant), and the film’s apt timing, while fans wait for Glass Onion, is a delightful addition to the genre.
The two leads included, casting is excellent as the film takes viewers through a thoughtful satire, reimagining Agatha Christie’s longest-running play on the West End, The Mousetrap, and explores why there’s yet to be a film adaptation despite its undeniable appeal and vogue. Harris Dickinson and Pearl Chanda star as real-life husband and wife duo Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim. Reece Shearsmith stars as the late producer John Woolf. And Adrien Brody plays a fictitious director Leo Köpernick. The film also stars Ruth Wilson, Sian Clifford, David Oyelowo, Charlie Cooper, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Pippa Bennett-Warner, and Shirley Henderson.
Though I’m personally not familiar with George’s work as a director or Chappell’s screenplays, See How They Run is just the kind of film to leave me interested and eager for more. The distinctly written tongue-in-cheek exchanges give the film its appeal, drawing on a less chaotic explanation like the 80’s masterpiece, Clue: The Movie. (Yes, I called it a masterpiece; that’s not a typo or a hyperbolic statement.) The only downside of this film is that I wish we had spent more time in the theatre or even Christie’s manor, a quintessential London abode in the 50s, with just enough edge to spook.
Still, See How They Run pokes fun at the genre because there’s enough of it to appreciate when glaring into the obvious. Words like “don’t jump to conclusions” aren’t merely meant for Constable Stalker (Ronan) but also for the audience. Full of literal meta references left and right, including Inspector Stoppard’s connection to Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. The more an audience member catches, the more fun the film’s spoofs will likely be. It tells us plenty, quite literally at times, with nudges through exceptionally subtle performances.
Further, while the entire cast calls for a pleasant hoot, Saorise Ronan is its absolute star as the rookie Constable Stalker. In the hands of any other actress, Stalker would likely annoy the daylights out of a viewer like me, but Ronan takes the overeager woman and runs for the hills. Or, in this case, towards theatre lobbies and back corridors.
Ronan’s character might be a novice, but the actress’s chops are unmatched as she takes on a seemingly conformist character with edges and nuances. We don’t get much backstory during the film’s short run, but we get enough to understand her motives, beliefs, and eagerness to do right by the law. Despite how little Constable Stalker knows, she’ll try, albeit too much at times, but Ronan brings her A-game through and through.
But perhaps the best part of See How They Run is how remarkably it manages to distract audiences away from the real killer with multiple red herrings. While I can generally guess who the killer is early on, the verdict in the film genuinely stumped me and managed to pleasantly surprise me, which is entirely the film’s purpose as it tries to nudge your attention towards all the wrong places. I should’ve known, and yet…
Further Recommended Films: The Outfit and Glass Onion
See How They Run is an incredible time through and through—full of hilarious performances, stunning cinematography, and striking set designs bound to make you want a new plant or two. While it’s no masterpiece, it’s a solid, fun, flashy, meta whodunit with a deliriously enjoyable soundtrack from Daniel Pemberton. And under no circumstances should you spoil yourself on the ending, even when you could see it coming from miles away.
See How They Run is now playing in theaters.