See How They Run (2022)
See How They Run (2022)

Genre: Comedy and Mystery Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Release Date: September 16th, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Tom George Actors: Saoirse Ronan, Sam Rockwell, Adrien Brody, Harris Dickinson, Ruth Wilson, David Oyelowo, Reece Shearsmith, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Charlie Cooper, Pearl Chanda

 


 

L

ondon’s West End in 1953 sees a lauded 100th performance of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.” Agatha herself doesn’t attend, but she sends a sizable cake for the afterparty. “A whodunit. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all,” muses big-shot Hollywood director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody), who narrates about his displeasure with the source material, and the struggle it’ll be to adapt it into something marginally more interesting than the boring script his sensitive writer Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) has conjured.

After heading backstage to clean his tuxedo of cake stains – acquired from fighting with glamorous youngster and star Dickie Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), whose wife Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda) became a target for sleazy flirtation – Leo is attacked and killed. A good whack from a sewing machine does the trick. And now it’s up to Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), with the help of rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), to identify the culprit – among possible suspects and soon-to-be victims such as theater impresario Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson) and her elderly mother, and film producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith). “I do like a good murder.”

Although not as blatantly blundering as Inspector Clouseau, Rockwell’s detective isn’t without clumsy episodes (often fueled by booze). He’s also divertingly idiosyncratic and tremendously understated at times (routinely appearing as if indifferent about solving crimes), crafting a distinct flatfoot, even if it’s something of a blend of other notable cinema sleuths. And Ronan is spectacularly fitting as a witty, pun-spewing sidekick who seems observant enough to potentially solve the case herself, even if she’s prone to jumping to conclusions. Though there are numerous characters – and therefore plenty of suspects (it helps that virtually everyone took a disliking to the deceased) – it’s the two leads who are most engaging, boasting a playful chemistry that is far more amusing than any other persona. They’re a supremely watchable team.

“Do you think that went well?” It certainly helps that their interactions are riddled with effective humor, a few of which result in laugh-out-loud observations. Plus, the comic timing is excellent and the pacing is brisk. The mystery itself isn’t meant to be guessable (it frequently nods to “The Mousetrap” itself, without spoiling that play’s now-famous finale, which means that any prior familiarity will give viewers extra insight into the various jokes and references), and so it unfolds in a labyrinthine pattern, with tiny clues given up sporadically; but the solution isn’t some long-awaited, nail-biting revelation. It’s the time spent with Stoppard and Stalker that is so engrossing.

Even with the flashbacks, split screens, and countless location changes (as well as other snappy scene transitions and editing techniques) – a mix of trite mystery ingredients and anticipated inclusions with zippy, stylized visuals – the presentation feels fresh and fun. As the script mocks the expected standards of whodunits, it also crafts an unpredictable brain-twister (in an art-imitates-life-imitates-art fashion), though it’s the type that requires exhaustive tidbits of reiteration to fill audiences in on how it all fits together (comparable to the quirky nature of “Knives Out,” but funnier, sharper, and curiously more realistic). Nevertheless, the end result is wry and satisfying, capable of pushing aside the intermittently ephemeral, light-and-fluffy feel for well-balanced entertainment.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10