See How They Run (2022)

“Or is that the idea? Gather all the suspects, and interrogate each one of us in turn until the mystery’s solved.”

If you’ve seen one whodunnit, you’ve most likely seen them all. Sharing the same formulaic premise, opening on the day of the murder, narrated by either the killer, a suspect, or the victim, introducing the motive of each character, seeing the murder play out, and finally meeting the inspector or detective that will solve the case by trapping the suspects in the same room together. Many in the genre blur together, carrying the same tune, taking the same melancholic approach, going from interrogation to interrogation while the script makes heavy arguments for each character only to finally catch the culprit red-handed during a climatic moment.

Taking an Agatha Christie admiration and inspiration for crafting this original, the latest addition, See How They Run, the second major whodunnit this year coming after Death on the Nile, goes above and beyond in showing the viewer how much influence Christie has held over the genre while paying homage to the acclaimed author. Selling over two billion copies will do that but screenwriter Mark Chappell goes one step further. The melodrama sets the stage but it’s the addition of much needed tongue and cheek humor mixed with 4th wall breaks that adds something new. As a viewer, we are involved in the story as it unfolds.

The self-awareness, pop culture references of the time works in the films favor, set in 1950’s London during a showing of Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, their 100th performance, American director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) wishes to adapt the play into a feature length film. He even begins our tale narrating the night which introduces the major players involved in the murder mystery, you know the ones who would be suspects and their motivations for enacting the killing. And they are all reasonable. Once the victim is murdered in the theater itself, Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) is paired up with Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) to solve the murder and bring the guilty party to justice.

Following the pairing of Stoppard and Stalker, the two interview all suspects that were in attendance on the 100th performance – many of which have excellent reasons for committing the despicable act of murder. There is Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo), the screenwriter for Köpernick’s adaptation, Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), star of ‘The Mousetrap’, John Wolff (Reece Shearsmith), producer of the adaptation, and Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson). Once the murder takes place, Constable Stalker becomes the central character director Tom George’s film focuses on. She is clumsy, sharp, ambitious, charming, and quirky and Ronan’s charisma shines alongside Sam Rockwell who plays the everyman cop, the one doing his job as he sees fit. It’s only natural that the two learn and grow from each other.

With the Agatha Christie-esque backdrop, characters waste no time comparing the murder of Köpernick to one of the authors famed works. Taking it one step further, Chappell’s script finds a clever way to incorporate ‘The Mousetrap’ and Christie’s inspiration into the narrative making the murderer someone that’s hiding in plain sight – someone that has real motivations to stop the production. Speaking of the production, going in a different direction than a Death on the Nile or Murder on the Orient Express was the best decision to not be just another carbon copy whodunnit.

As a standalone whodunnit, See How They Run doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Why fix something that isn’t broken? Sure, the actual mystery itself features twists, turns and unexpected accusations around every corner that will keep people guessing but It’s the humor, borderline satire and the relatability of Stoppard and Stalker that gives the film an intimacy that the Hercule Poirot led films are missing. No matter how many adaptations Kenneth Branagh makes, Poirot is a figure that’s too isolating and distant. Maybe he’s the best man for the job but I find Rockwell’s Stoppard approachable even with his guard up.

Like any whodunnit, the strength of the film is in its cast. The ensemble is full of talent from top to bottom who all commit to their carved-out role, whether it’s one scene passing by or the entirety of the film. Having a sense of humor works to the film’s advantage – even during the seriousness of murder investigation, a lighter tone can prove to be the balance to lift a spirit or two.

See How They Run is an energetic charmer – though it may not bring anything new to the genre, it doesn’t have to, a fine addition to an under saturated genre that needs a fresh face along with Rian Johnson’s Benoit Blanc – its imagination to a world of potential that Christie created will surely inspire more to explore a parody-like approach. Full of energy, a solid cast, aptly paced with a runtime that never loses steam, See How They Run comes at the perfect time, when the release schedule needed an injection of life to it to survive.

Screenplay By: Mark Chappell

Directed By: Tom George

Music By: Daniel Pemberton

Cinematography: Jamie D. Ramsey

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, David Oyelowo, Charlie Cooper

Release Date: Sept 16, 2022

Running Time: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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