Set in the theatre district of London’s West End in 1953, a production of Agatha Christie’s whodunit The Mousetrap seems to be cursed after the body of flagrant director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) turns up dead after the show. The jaded Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and rookie investigator Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) are assigned to the case, and it seems as if everyone’s a suspect: the actors, the crew, the waiting staff and, to Stalker’s shock, perhaps Stoppard.
Influenced by the work and style of its period as well as contemporary ensemble hits like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Knives Out, See How They Run keeps the viewer snickering and guessing throughout the movie. Filmmaker Tom George stages memorable sight gags and impressive choreography, while screenwriter Mark Chappell spins a buoyant yarn with snappy dialogue and an unpredictable narrative layered in fun flashbacks. To the viewer’s amusement, it also appears that the cast is having an absolute ball in this homage to quick-witted comedies and mysteries.
Indeed, See How They Run is a clever and comedic murder mystery. The movie’s only real issue is that it knows how clever and funny it is. Using elements of meta comedy, the production finds shared qualities on its own levels: the movie itself, the murder within the movie, and the play within the movie. Chappell will draw attention to the overlap experienced by the actors of The Mousetrap as they’re interrogated by Stoppard and Stalker. At the same time, Chappell’s story will directly acknowledge whodunit tropes followed shortly by George deliberately working them into the movie. These nods are perfectly cheeky, sometimes riding dangerously close to being a little bit smug which does still work within the film’s attitude and continuity (in small doses, that is). However, See How They Run does take this meta approach too far with literal split-screen comparisons. The audience can accept the filmmakers’ transparency, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want any nuance whatsoever.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie