See How They Run – Film Review
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, Charlie Cooper, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Pearl Chanda, Sian Clifford, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, David Oyelowo
Director: Tom George
Synopsis: Plans for a movie adaptation of a popular murder mystery play are thrown into chaos when a key member of the crew is murdered…
Review: There is arguably no one more associated with the concept of a whodunnit murder mystery than the legendary Agatha Christie. The creator of staples of the genre like Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple has spawned countless film and TV adaptations over many years. Given the resurging popularity of murder mysteries as of late, it would be so easy for the creative team behind this latest incarnation of the genre to be another in the long line of adaptations of Christie’s works. Still, a direct adaptation, this is not. It very much taps into Christie’s legacy and gives the audience a thrilling and brilliantly funny slice of murder mystery mayhem.
It is 1953, in the heart of London’s West End. The cast and crew of Agatha Christie’s popular play The Mousetrap throw a party to celebrate their 100th show. Present at the party is prominent American film director Leo Köpernick (Brody), who is attempting to convince the play’s producer John Woolf (Shearsmith) during the party to let him make a film adaptation of the play. However, later that evening Kopernick is found to have been murdered by a mysterious assailant. Charged with taking on the case are the jaded drunkard Detective Stoppard (Rockwell) and a very keen and eager new recruit Constable Stalker (Ronan) to investigate the circumstances surrounding Kopernick’s murder and apprehend the suspect.
The genre of the murder mystery/whodunnit has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, so one might expect to see this one follow all of those tropes to the letter, because as one character goes at the beginning “It’s a whodunnit. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” However, what makes this feature film directorial debut from Tom George so delightfully entertaining is it manages to collectively follow these tropes, whilst also providing some witty meta-commentary about the genre as a whole. But crucially, it never once comes off as condescending or patronising, as Mark Chappell’s screenplay is sharply written, keeping things moving along at a brisk pace, leaving the audience constantly on its toes as to who could this mystery assailant possibly be.
Equally, what makes this film such a joyous blast to watch are its characters. In its two lead detectives, you have two characters who could not be more opposite to one another if they tried, very much the chalk and cheese of their profession. In Rockwell’s Stoppard is a detective who has grown to be very weary, almost disinterested in his profession, and would much rather be getting drunk. Meanwhile, Ronan (who gets to use her native Irish accent) is the complete polar opposite. She is extremely eager, armed with her notepad without fail ready to jot down any information that might help them solve the case. Her love of the arts, as well as her perfect comedic timing, ensures she steals the show, an impressive feat considering the array of talent that has been assembled amongst this super-talented cast.
Through Amanda McArthur’s immaculate production design, and the snappy editing from Gary Dollner and Peter Lambert, there is a vibe throughout the whole film that is very reminiscent of a Wes Anderson production. Yet simultaneously, due to George’s direction being so confident and assured, never once feels like a rip-off or a cheap imitation, as George very much puts his own stamp on the film. When you have directors like Tom George and Rian Johnson producing films that are able to follow the genre’s well-worn tropes, yet simultaneously provide some witty social commentary, it is no surprise that the genre is enjoying a peak in its popularity, Agatha Christie would be very proud.
With its extremely witty dialogue and wonderfully drawn characters, especially those portrayed by Ronan and Rockwell, See How They Run marks another splendid addition to the whodunnit genre.