Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 38 minutes, Director – Tom George
An American film director (Adrien Brody) looking to adapt hit play The Mousetrap is killed, with stage and screen production members all suspects.
With Disney’s D23 convention having recently passed, and myself having praised the modernity of Bodies Bodies Bodies, it’s always nice to see something which successfully embraces the traditional. Murder-mystery See How They Run – likely one of a string we’ll start to see in the wake of Knives Out’s success – does just this by leaning in to a state of theatricality as film director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) is found killed on the stage of the recent West End hit play he’s looking to adapt for the big screen, The Mousetrap.
With production members of both stage and screen acting as suspects – we run through the cast in a pacey prologue told from Köpernick’s perspective in the build-up to the murder – it’s up to tired and to-the-point Inspector Stoppard (an effectively mumbled British-accented Sam Rockwell) and eager rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan – who appears to be having a great deal of fun with a role which allows her to make a number of amusing wisecracks) to track down the killer before anyone else falls victim. The duo may not seem like an obvious pairing, but they naturally bounce off of each other thanks to their character’s differing attitudes to the case. There’s plenty of chuckles to be found as they discuss and exchange theories and potential killers, whilst the more experienced Stoppard warns hopeful-sergeant Stalker – writing everything she finds and learns in her seemingly endless notepad – not to jump to conclusions.
By seeing their deliberations and workings as to who the killer might be the film doesn’t quite follow a conventional whodunnit nature. You see the two detectives working out and discussing along the way, instead of building up to a big parlour room monologue. Whilst you may not play along as actively as in other murder-mysteries there’s still an element of involved guesswork for the viewer as we meet each of the individual characters in the starry cast – including the likes of Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith and David Oyelowo. Some may get more screen-time than others as we go from one to another in an almost chaptered set of interviews in respective locations – each providing flashbacks and more details of the events building up to the murder.
When leaning into the traditional elements there’s plenty of inspiration taken from classic murder-mystery conventions, using The Mousetrap not just as a point for occasional gags but also for plot details and a theatrical context and styling to the film as a whole. The dispute over the potential film adaptation brings in a slight clash of stage and screen element whilst generally pushing certain jokes throughout the film. Allowing for an element of self-awareness and mild fun poking which heightens the lighter elements of the film and simply brings in a strand of fun to the proceedings. At a short 98 minutes overall and with a number of chuckles to be had throughout there’s plenty to keep you engaged and amused over the course of the narrative as the officers attempt to track down the killer amongst their own lightly dealt with character issues – one certainly more present for eventual plot reasons than the other.
But, as things move along their traditional outlines there’s plenty to enjoy about See How They Run. It uses its inspirations and settings for gags, basis and narrative progression without ever feeling weighed down by or reliant on it. There are plenty of enjoyable characters and situations throughout and while some might get pushed more towards the back to focus on both a shorter (and well contained) run-time and the clearer primary (starrier) suspects. Yet, what we get works rather well and provides plenty of amusement for the time that it takes to pan out.
While it might occasionally border on feeling chaptered in terms of the stages of interviews with the starrier characters there’s plenty of amusement to be found within the theatrically-inspired self-awareness of See How They Run, and the discussions of the enjoyable pairing of Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan.