Rian Johnson’s Knives Out seems to have made murder mysteries – specifically, old-fashioned whodunnits – fashionable again. At first glance, See How They Run seems like a cheap attempt to repeat the success of that; it, too, boasts an impressive ensemble cast and the script is full of sharp and witty dialogue, but here, the action is set in 1950s West End in London.
Thankfully, See How They Run is excellent, all on its own merits. It’s fun, breezy and everything you’d want from a mid-September movie.
Sam Rockwell is Inspector Stoppard who is called to investigate the mysterious murder of Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), a Hollywood film director working on a film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Multiple people have motives to kill Kopernick, not least the owner of the theatre where The Mousetrap is currently playing to sold-out crowds every night or the fumbling film producer (Reece Shearsmith) who can’t make the film adaptation until the West End run of the play ends and death in the theatre would all but ensure that.
Stoppard is aided by a young and enthusiastic Constable Stalker (brilliant Saoirse Ronan) who often jumps to conclusions. Stalker and Stoppard’s dynamic is what powers most of See How They Run. I often write that a film is an actors’ film and what I mean by that is usually that the film runs on the performances, they’re what keeps you entertained and glued to the screen at all times.
See How They Run, however, is a script-led film, if one where the script and the performances go beautifully hand in hand. Mark Chappell’s script is full of witty one-liners, but they only come alive once performed to perfection by the cast. Tom George’s subtle, but powerful direction is just the cherry on top of it all.
George, who comes from a heavy TV background, fluently and thrillingly moves the plot along. See How They Run is a particularly well-paced film and you don’t really appreciate pacing until you encounter a film that never outstays its welcome and you even feel like you could have existed in the film’s world a tiny bit longer. George smartly leaves his audience wanting more.
That being said, the cast is top notch. Saoirse Ronan is a revelation as Stalker. Never has she been able to flex those comedic muscles on this level, but she completely steals the show, while also underlining her character with a sense of sadness and desperation. Sam Rockwell is also in excellent form as the boozy, lazy Stoppard.
It’s not all perfect. The ensemble cast is at times a little too large and talented actors, such as Ruth Wilson and Sian Clifford drown in the busyness of it all. See How They Run also rewards you most if you’re unfamiliar with The Mousetrap, but with any knowledge of Christie’s works, you might guess the identity of the murderer easily. The twists of the narrative sometimes feel a tad contrived, but mostly, this works remarkably well even if you can guess who, in fact, did it.
Even then, See How They Run is a lot of fun. Essentially, this is a whodunnit about the very nature of whodunnits so even if the central mystery fails to capture you, the film’s other interests might keep you entertained. The production design and costumes are dashing, as is to be expected and Daniel Pemberton’s music accompanies the visuals nicely.
SEE HOW THEY RUN is in cinemas from September 9th