Review: ‘See How They Run’ plays murder mystery for laughs
“See How They Run” is a satiric Agatha Christie-like mystery/thriller of a whodunit costarring Sam Rockwell as a boozy inspector, and Saoirse Ronan as an enthusiastic rookie constable trying to solve the murder of a crew of a popular play in 1950s London.
BAXTER — Who doesn’t love a whodunit?
Most of us would jump at the chance to be amateur sleuths, ready to don the iconic deerstalker hat worn in typical portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, and eager to smoke a pipe (or vape, as the case may be nowadays) and triumphantly solve a murder, catch a killer and be a hero.
That’s the built-in appeal of “See How They Run,” a new release with an ensemble cast headlined by Sam Rockwell as an inspector and Saoirse Ronan as a rookie constable from Scotland Yard in 1950s London.
The murder mystery begins with insufferable director Leo Kopernick, played by Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, attempting to helm a feature film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” a real play by the famed English mystery writer.
“This thrilling West End production – which has become as much of a London icon as Big Ben or Buckingham Palace – is THE genre-defining murder mystery from the best-selling novelist of all time… case closed!” according to an Agatha Christie-devoted website.
Kopernick is dismissive of the play and in an opening voice-over for the audience’s benefit outlines the major plot beats of works like “Death on the Nile” — a murder, plenty of suspects, a shrewd and insightful investigator, the gathering of suspects and the announcement of the killer.
Before you know it, Kopernick is killed, himself, shortly after the 90-minute film begins and is revealed to be talking from beyond the grave in a stylish and period-appropriate homage to the 1950 film noir “Sunset Boulevard,” a black comedy starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden.
From there, “See How They Run” skews the conventions of a murder mystery and lampoons them, even as the motion picture, which is rated PG-13, leans into them with dry wit and comedic touches that mirror Christie’s stage play, “The Mousetrap.”
“Victim’s name is Leo Kopernick, sir. Seems he was killed in the costume store. And then he was deposited here. Staged so to speak,” Constable Stalker informs a world-weary Inspector Stoppard, who arrives late on the scene at the theater, before snickering at her own joke.
“See How They Run” unapologetically and intentionally mimics Christie’s stage play, which began as a radio play entitled “Three Blind Mice” and was written at the request of the BBC for the queen.
The play’s synopsis: “As news spreads of a murder in London, a group of seven strangers finds themselves snowed in at a stately countryside guesthouse. When a police sergeant arrives, the guests discover — to their horror — that a killer is in their midst.”
Christie then expanded “Three Blind Mice” from a 20-minute radio play into a full-length stage play by adding characters and a fuller background and plot, according to the Agatha Christie-devoted website, and the title was changed and “The Mousetrap” was born.
But moviegoers will be kept guessing into the very end of the stylish and gorgeous production of “See How They Run” as to who the real killer is among the cast, all of which had plenty of reasons to murder Kopernick, but besides motive, who also had the opportunity?
“See How They Run” currently holds a 71% approval rating among critics and a 68% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.
The consensus from audiences at RottenTomatoes.com: “Even if ‘See How They Run’ isn't the smartest or most unpredictable mystery you've seen, some great work from the stars makes this a consistently good time.”