See How They Run Plot
Picture it. The West End, 1953 just after the 100th performance of the Agatha Christie play, The Mousetrap, at the Ambassadors Theatre. As would be expected after 100 successful shows, the cast and crew of The Mousetrap are having a little bit of an afterparty, which is also attended by the producer, writer and director of the planned film adaptation. What’s a little less expected is that the director, Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) is murdered by a mysterious figure in a coat and hat who leaves the dead director displayed on the set for all to see.
Naturally, this murder requires investigating, so the police send the incredibly eager Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) and the drunken, over-it Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell). Together the two of them have to figure out who murdered the director, why, and just who might be next in the killer’s sights. It’s a murder mystery worthy of Agatha Christie herself, which is good because she’s also involved heavily in this so it would be awkward if it wasn’t.
See How They Run Review
It’s almost impossible to deny that See How They Run exists purely because of the outrageous success of Knives Out (and no one is denying it, the director will readily tell you himself that this got greenlit because that new market opened up) so it’s certainly tempting to compare this film to that recent work but if anything See How They Run feels more like a throwback to some older spoof whodunnit films like Murder By Death or Clue, films where the focus is less about the actual mystery and more about the interactions between all the characters.
While Knives Out felt like a genuine attempt to create a murder mystery that the audience was able to solve, here it feels like that’s less important than the playful banter flying around between the obscenely talented cast.
While See How They Run does feature characters based on real people, such as Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) and John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith), it blends that cast with completely original characters such as the detectives and the actual director, creating a strange alternate history that’s partially inspired by real events (namely there really was a film adaptation being planned that was to be made after The Mousetrap finished its original run… a run that has now gone for 70 years and still going) but uses the real events mostly as a foundation that it builds from, slowly getting sillier and sillier as See How They Run goes on.
It borders on farcical comedy at times but never pushes so far that it becomes unrealistic, indeed it’s careful to keep from going too far because it would hurt one of the core ideas of the film if they were to go absolutely insane, even though you can tell that most of this cast would be game to go fully insane.
Under all the fun and silliness are a few genuinely great commentaries on serious topics, such as how power structures tend to reward those at the top who do nothing but take all the credit, the rampant misogyny that runs through police stations and film studios and, perhaps most importantly, how our love of true crime can re-traumatize the victims.
That last topic is particularly poignant now with the recent Dahmer Netflix series making us reconsider this, so to talk about it using work as long running as The Mousetrap is something that makes See How They Run genuinely quite special. It has some very clever and interesting points it wants to make, in between the laughter and the violation of the fourth wall.
See How They Run is also just a visual treat, repeatedly using split screens and fourth wall breaks in order to really give the film a unique tone. Instead of cutting back and forth between two locations, the film will just split the screen up and let you see two places at once for a while so you can keep a track of where everyone is more easily.
It also helps that See How They Run is very aware of the tropes that it’s playing around with, aware to the point where someone in a voice-over will just flat out complain about a trope just before the film itself uses it… which is almost unfair because it’s hard to critique a film that’s aware of its own use of overdone tropes but the film does this so well that you can’t help but laugh at the audacity of it.
Of course, at the end of it all, what makes See How They Run work best is the characters and they don’t all get an equal amount of time (indeed, some seem to just be there because they were in the original run of The Mousetrap so therefore they have to be there) every moment that’s given is glorious. Saoirse Ronan basically steals the entire film with her effervescent charm, every excited utterance, while Sam Rockwell manages to get some of the biggest laughs by barely reacting to it. Together they are a dream team, the kind that in the old days would be doing 20 pictures together just because they have such great comedic chemistry.
There are also several standout moments from Harris Dickensen as a very pompous version of Richard Attenborough, Adrien Brody getting to take the sleazy director and turn it up to 11 for glorious comedic effect and a surprisingly camp David Oyelowo as the writer trying to adapt the play to a movie. Everyone certainly handles all the material well and manages to keep the pace going (seriously, this film soars by so quickly and with such effortless joy) but when someone gets a chance to really stand out, they take it and go for broke with their little moments to shine.
See How They Run Overall
See How They Run might not be quite at the level of the film that allowed it to be greenlit, but it’s still absolutely goddamn brilliant. It’s a fun alternate history murder mystery with enough great comedic moments to have you laughing for a good amount of the runtime. It’s the kind of film where if a joke doesn’t work for you, just wait a few seconds and another one will be along and maybe that will work better.
It’s a very enjoyable time that does something very fun with a beloved classic, which is good because at this rate we will never get an actual movie of The Mousetrap so might as well have this silly alternate reality version instead.
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