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Photo: ‘See How They Run’
One of the classic genres of film and storytelling is that of murder mysteries. There’s something so deliciously enticing about a murder, all the suspects, and the eventual reveal of who did it. The most recent whodunit to hit cinemas is ‘See How They Run.’ Written by Mark Chappell and directed by Tom George, the film balances comedy and mystery and pays homage to the mystery mastermind herself, Agatha Christie. Set in 1950s London, the story follows the players in West End’s production of Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap,’ and the team attempting to adapt the stage play into a film. Alas! A murder occurs, and mayhem ensues from there.
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Mixing historical notions with fiction, ‘See How They Run’ is a fun experience with a wide cast of characters and clever writing, though, dare I say, it could be more over-the-top. The setting and style make for an amusing playground for the story to be told, and the cast, led by cinematic royalty Saorise Ronan, Sam Rockwell, and Adrien Brody, bring the chaos to life. If you’re a fan of the whodunit world, and its leading lady, Agatha Christie, then add this one to your watchlist.
A Whodunit – How to do It
In recent years, the genre has seen its own revival. With fresh takes, such as Rian Johnson’s ‘Knives Out’ in 2019, to more Christie classics, such as 2017’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and it’s new sequel, ‘Death on the Nile.’ Movie-goers have been loving these tales of murder and betrayal. ‘See How They Run’ adds its own flare through its unapologetic style and self-awareness. The film knows its audience has seen a mystery before, and it basks in the common tropes while still subverting expectations. When it comes to the style, viewers are treated to split-screen sequences and jokes and gags, which take the morbid subject of someone being murdered and push it through a comedic lens. The moments with split screens make everything more exciting and original, and certainly play into the story well. Complimenting this editing flourish is the 1950s set. It is an idealistic platform for the setting while also being a time in which Christie was maintaining her popularity.
To have a convincing whodunit set-up, you need a brilliant array of characters with potential motives and links all waiting to be unraveled. ‘See How They Run’ sets up just that, though the crime it commits is not having enough screen time for certain players and their cooky antics. A mystery would not be complete without its detective. This film does a wonderful subversion, as the man in charge of solving the case, Inspector Stoppard (Rockwell), is not an accomplished sleuth clouded by his own intelligence – the expected concoction of the character – he is a drunken and weary man annoyed to be partnered with rookie Constable Stalker (Ronan). Meanwhile, Stalker is the wide-eyed newbie eager to jump to conclusions, who is also far from the distinguished detective persona we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in the genre. Ronan truly shines in this role, being one of the best parts of the films. Her comedic timing is impeccable, and she proves her range as an artist, having been known for her more dramatic turns in films such as ‘Lady Bird,’ and ‘Little Women.’ All in all, it’s a whodunit done right.
‘See How They Run’ – An Homage to Agatha Christie
The name “See How They Run” comes from the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice,” which was also the initial title for Christie’s play, ‘The Mousetrap.’ The song can even be heard in the background of the film at certain moments. ‘The Mousetrap’ itself is a piece of history, being the longest running West End show still going strong today, and the film’s plot using the actors for the play and the creative persons for the desired adaptation adds to its brilliance. By using real figures, such as actor Richard Attenborough (played by Harris Dickinson) and film producer John Woolf (played by Reece Shearsmith), and mixing them in with fictional characters, there’s a fun layer of realness built into the zany comedy.
Everyone is aware of Agatha Christie’s contributions to literature throughout her lifetime, and her keen eye for mystery. There are several nods to the author, after all, she practically invented the genre. The film is able to tap into Christie’s precedents while still providing surprising, new beats that make it all the more intriguing. Sometimes, films try too hard to be different and stand out from all the ones that came before, but classics are classics for a reason, and ‘See How They Run’ is able to be different without being a try-hard. On the other hand, some films are just replicas of their inspiration, but once again, this film stands out with a new approach and a clear voice complete with its own identity. Not only is it a whodunit done right, it’s an homage done right.
I love a good mystery, and this film delivered on that front. The only thing that could work to improve it is just making it “more.” There was so much dutiful groundwork laid, there seemed to be more fun to have and more over-the-top possibilities to take this one to the next level. Sometimes you laugh, but you wish you’d laugh a little louder. Wanting more is my main criticism, and that is not a terrible criticism to have. I came to watch a whodunit and I, indeed, found out who did it. The finale was entertaining, and all the steps along the way to discovery held my attention.
I could see many individuals and families enjoying this film, and it makes for a fun addition to the September line-up of cinema. We’ll have to see if the film’s memorability holds up at the end of the year, but for now, it was a solid watch, and that’s all you can really ask for. ‘See How They Run’ is in theaters now! If you’re looking for a mystery to solve, give it a go.
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Sam Rockwell, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, David Oyelowo, Charlie Cooper, Shirley Henderson, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Pearl Chanda, Paul Chahidi, Sian Clifford, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Lucian Msamati, and Tim Key
Director: Tom George
Writer: Mark Chappell
Producers: Gina Carter & Damien Jones
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography: Jamie Ramsay
Editors: Gary Dollner & Peter Lambert
By Rachel Beltowski
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Rachel Beltowski is a screenwriter and film critic, with a passion for character-driven stories and thought-provoking themes. From adventure to horror, Rachel enjoys stories which take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster and allow for personal expression that would otherwise go silent. Rachel was drawn to The Hollywood Insider’s dedication to individual perspectives and positive world impacts. The Hollywood Insider has provided a foundation for Rachel to share her insights and leap into the center of the entertainment industry. Rachel hopes to bring a fresh voice into the world of film and television, and share her love of stories with others.