Will a violent killing, six suspects, two officers and a twist leave you laughing and guessing in the stylish murder mystery comedy ‘See How They Run’?
Without a doubt, murder mysteries are one of my favourite film genres. I mean, who doesn’t love a good ‘who dun it’? Yes, this genre is never far from cinema screens, and why would it be? It’s the only time we all get to play detective and solve the case before the police officer on screen. It’s even better when you watch it with friends who all proclaim to know the killer’s identity before the big reveal! What I wasn’t ever expecting to see was a comedy murder mystery, so I was intrigued and excited when the trailer was first revealed. I mean, could murder really be funny?
‘See How They Run’ comes from a script written by Mark Chappel and is the feature film directorial debut for Tom George. Even though the film centers around the Agatha Christie play ‘Mouse Trap‘, this movie is an original idea and not based on any of Christie’s previous works. While celebrating the 100th performance of ‘The Mouse Trap’, proceedings are brought to a premature halt when there is a real murder on stage.
Set within the glamour and glitz of the 1950s west end, the movie stars Sam Rockwell as Inspector Stoppard and Saoirse Ronan as rookie officer Constable Stalker. They are called in to investigate when American director Leo Köpenick (Adrian Brody) is murdered before he can begin work on his film adaptation of ‘The Mousetrap’. Straight away we are introduced to the players/suspects involved and given hints towards their motives so we can start piecing it together/jumping to our own conclusions.
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I went into the movie excited to see how comedy would fuse into this genre. While I wasn’t necessarily disappointed, I was upset there wasn’t more. The film attempted to playfully poke fun at murder mystery tropes, many found in Agatha Christie plays and books themselves. My complaint is they maybe didn’t lean in far enough. It felt like at times they forgot this was also meant to be a comedy, playing instead like a spoof of a dramatic movie. There were moments where it felt like they film would open up and really start hitting those comedic notes, but they dipped their toe in then pulled back for some reason.
I thought Sam Rockwell give a decent performance but kept finding myself wondering whether an actor like Gary Oldman would have really brought it to life. His portrayal of a fed up well-travelled officer just felt a bit flat. This contrasts with Saoirse Ronan whose constable Stalker was the life of the film. I appreciate her character was written in that way, but she really did shine in this role. At times, it felt like she was the only one that remembered she was in a comedy or at least something that was not serious and meant to be having fun.
Direction is handled competently with Tom George borrowing stylistically from more experienced film directors in the field. While it doesn’t quite add up to something brand new, aesthetically, it works very well and enhances the story being told. There is a great supporting cast of characters here who provide some fun set pieces but once again I felt they could have gone further. I was expecting more chaos and silly ‘high jinks’ which just didn’t come.
I enjoyed ‘See How They Run’ but not as much as I was hoping I would. The plot and story play out exactly as you would expect. The film is self-referential and gives many nods to us in the audience, acknowledging it is following what is always done in murder mysteries. In a way, that’s the point of having a play about a murder as the focus of a film about a murder.
But if you are expecting it to surprise you with an unexpected deviation from tradition then you will be disappointed. Without giving away any spoilers, I found the other suspects motives much more interesting than that of the actual killer, which meant the ‘payoff’ at the end didn’t feel as satisfying. The film missed an opportunity to stand out by really leaning into the laughs more but apart from the fantastic comedic performance by Saoirse Ronan, it doesn’t feel like anyone else really committed to the comedy.
‘See How They Run’ is slick, silly, entertaining, and stylish. Maybe not as funny or silly as it should have been but fun all the same. It lacked a certain energy at times, and I found myself wishing for more chaos, or that more would happen. As it stands this is a light murder mystery which could have done with more laughs and a shot of adrenalin. And rather than poke fun at the murder mystery genre, it serves as more of a friendly tribute to it.
See How They Run Is in Cinemas now. Watch the trailer here