As soon as I read the synopsis for See How They Run, I knew I would adore it. Set in London’s West End, with a potential Hollywood movie adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap and a murder to bring it all to a grinding halt, all brought together in a whodunit investigated by two bumbling detectives? No trailer needed - I was so sure it would be amazing, and I genuinely think I was right. As a huge fan of murder mystery stories and an even bigger fan of theatre, it’s like this movie was made for me! The movie’s style, script, and characters - the list goes on - are all so well made, and I will continue to encourage everyone to see it for themselves. So, biases aside here is my spoiler-free review of See How They Run in the hopes that you, too, will watch and adore this movie. And there are no excuses anymore because it’s now available to stream on Disney+!
The movie’s basic premise is this: In 1950s London, the hugely successful murder mystery play, The Mousetrap, is celebrating its 100th performance and is in the early stages of being turned into a movie. The play is brought to life in more ways than one when cocky film director, Leo Köpernick, played by Adrien Brody, is murdered backstage. Köpernick narrates part of the story where he shows a real distaste for almost everything, theatre and film included, except for himself. It’s no wonder he was the first to go.
Enter our two main characters - the detectives tasked with solving the murder. Inspector Stoppard, played by Sam Rockwell, and Constable Stalker, played by Saoirse Ronan. Like any good murder mystery, they’re the perfect duo to crack the case. Stoppard’s world-weary, matter-of-fact persona means that he keeps them on track, keeps everything realistic, and ensures there’s a healthy amount of cynicism in everything they do. Pair that with Stalker’s clumsiness and hopeful, fresh-faced enthusiasm, and you’ve got the perfectly balanced pair. One to keep the faith, one to ground them. The way that one’s optimism meets the other’s skepticism means that they bounce off each other perfectly, which leads to some brilliant comedy moments.
One of my favorite things about this movie is the way that it’s structured. That might sound horrendously boring but stick with me here. The film is primarily told through scenes of detective work, followed by flashbacks of what actually happened. On the surface, that’s pretty standard for a detective movie. But I am obsessed with how self-referential this movie is. The plot of the play and Leo’s ideas for the movie adaptation are used to parallel the real-life film you’re watching. When Leo brings out his storyboards, you can bet you will see those shots at some point. When he floats the idea of flashbacks to tell the story, they’re shot down by the director as bad movie-making, all of which is a scene that is taking place inside of a flashback! In a way, it breaks the fourth wall and feels like very British tongue-in-cheek humor.
The film is so well made. Director Tom George is relatively new to directing, with See How They Run being his first major motion picture. George is clearly very inspired by Wes Anderson. So much so that, straight out of the cinema, I did a quick search to see if Anderson was involved because there are places where it’s so incredibly reminiscent of his style. The story feels incredibly intricate, planned out to mirror The Mousetrap and its movie adaptation perfectly. Not only that, but the writer, Mark Chappell, obviously had Agatha Christie in mind from the get-go. I was surprised that it wasn’t an adaptation of one of her other stories. It has her genius style sprinkled throughout. And, in true Agatha Christie style, there’s a full cast of characters, all of which have their own motive for murder. Maybe you can figure it out before the film reveals the answer!
See How They Run is a love letter to theatre, movies, and murder mystery stories. It pokes fun at every single one, but in the same way you make fun of a sibling. You still adore them, but you can recognize their flaws and love them regardless. I think this film is excellent. From the first moment, you can feel the passion and thought that has gone into making it. The little nuances of how it’s been constructed, from the script to the editing, are so clever it’s a guaranteed laugh-a-lot movie for even the most mystery-opposed viewer.