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See How They Run

****
2022

‘…See How They Run’s affectionate sending up of familiar murder-mystery tropes should delight genre fans…’

The humble ‘whodunit’, the all-star investigation of a society murder, was long out of fashion before a surprising resurgence in the last few years, ranging from Kenneth Branagh’s reboot of Hercules Poirot to Only Murders in the Building, with Rian Johnson’s Knives Out providing a surprise spark at the box-office. That’s the febrile climate that’s led to Tom George’s brisk pastiche See How They Run, written by Mark Chappell and doubling down on genre credentials by taking inspiration from Agatha Christie’s celebrated play The Mousetrap. It’s been brought forward in the UK schedules to take advantage of a lack of studio releases, and provides welcome sustenance for those seeking cinematic fun.

It’s during a party celebrating the 100th performance of the hit play The Mousetrap that US film director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) meets a violent demise, abruptly dispatched backstage by a faceless antagonist. Scotland Yard have their hands full with the search for the 10 Rillington Place serial killer, and send their B team to investigate. Boozy Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and enthusiastic cop-in-training Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) have a motely roster of suspects to interview in their search for the murderer. Could it be affected playwright Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelomo), film-producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith), grand dame Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson) or even actor Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson)? There are plenty of other suspects to consider, but time runs out as the killer strikes again…

“Maybe its all of them?’ hopefully suggests Stalker, but this isn’t a reworking of the Orient Express, it’s a fresh IP that hangs cheekily on the coat-tales of other mysteries. See How They Run leans heavily into the comic, but aside from a couple of very brief pratfalls, coasts along on such rare commodities as cleverness and wit; there’s wordplay linking The Mousetrap to the play from which it takes its name (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) as well as cinematic nods to Mario Bava (Blood and Black Lace 1964) and even Hitchcock’s last film Family Plot in an artfully staged car stunt. Such details may delight those who appreciate such ingenuity, but the basic plot passes muster, leading to a fiery finale in a remote English country house where the killer is finally identified.

While short on out-and-out comic set-pieces, See How They Run’s affectionate sending up of familiar murder-mystery tropes should delight genre fans; there’s a neat running gag about not understanding the difference between French and Belgian that relates directly to Poirot. Whether this is caviar to the general in terms of mainstream audiences remains to be seen, but Chappell and George deliver the laughs and intrigue in equal measure, with Rockwell and Ronan displaying enviable timing as the investigators. Her over-eagerness to identify the killer might reflect the viewer’s potential impatience for such quaintness, but See How they Run’s light touch and genial nature rewards those with a taste for the absurd. And against the background of a deliciously grimy post-war London, Williams gives a relishable supporting role as Attenborough, capturing the great man’s mannerisms with welcome affection and subtlety.

Thanks to Disney for big-screen access to See How They Run, which opens Sept 9th in the UK, and Sept 16th in the UK. seehowtheyrunmovie.com

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  1. Really looking forward to seeing this – I’m hoping it’ll be a fun evening out! I know it’s not Agatha Christie but it might knock some life into the genre. I’ve found Branagh’s Poirot a bit turgid despite the big budget, although to be fair I’m a Suchet loyalist through and through.

    • Suchet was pretty good as Poirot, but like you, the Branagh films seem to me to make rather a meal of things. This is a snappy, short film, but it’s a lot of fun and certainly knows its stuff when it comes to Christie. Vague spoiler; she’s in this!

  2. You mention Knives Out. I ended up utterly despising that movie. How similar a vibe, etc does this have with it? If it’s even a little similar I’ll probably be forced to pass to keep my sanity.

    • It steers well clear of the darker elements that I suspect you wouldn’t have liked in Knives. I’d this this and Zeppelin would be recommends for you. Wholesome. Full of nutritional value. Like a monster drink and pizza combo.

  3. I’m sure I’ll check this out when it gets released on DVD, which it probably will. These things only work when they’re really clever though, and the trailer didn’t seem long on cleverness. I also had to keep replaying the bit of banter where Ronan can’t read her own handwritten notes and instead of saying ‘celebrated’ playwright says something else. I went back and replayed that bit three times and couldn’t make out what she says. Finally I had to turn the subtitles on so I could get the joke.

    This is something that really gets me with a lot of movies today. Actors tend to mutter or garble their lines so badly, or they’re being mixed so bad, I can’t make out what people are saying.

    Or maybe I just need to make an appointment with Dr. Fraggle to have my ears checked.

    • I know she’s coming up to Edinburgh, but it would seem rude to hope she’s being her ear cleaning equipment. But I fully agree on this point, it took me four listens to hear ‘overrated’. But I think that I’ve given plenty of examples that this is, from soup to nuts, a cut above most films in the smartness of the concept and dialogue, which is crisply recorded. I absolutely hated this trailer when I first saw it, and fully expected to hate the film. Proper film, so a dvd should be in your local library once it’s initial Disney + exclusive run ends. I’d have liked a few more laugh out loud scenes, but as a pastiche, it’s constantly amusing, and that’s rare today.

      • I wish it was available now, I’ve got a night off from Phil and could do with this one, I like the trailer.
        Also- I always travel with an emergency ear kit, you. never know when someone is going to go deaf when you need them to hear you!

    • I’d happily sign up for more if this. But so many critics just want to write about fantasy franchises, I do worry about whether making a clever, lighthearted film can still find its way to an audience. Hope springs eternal…

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