“See How They Run”: a mysterious comedy that doesn’t stick the landing

Grace Sherban honestly reviews the new cinematic mystery See How They Run.


Grace Sherban honestly reviews the new cinematic mystery “See How They Run.”

Grace Sherban, Campus Editor

*Contains Spoilers*

“See How They Run” is the newest entry into the ever expanding “whodunit” genre, which contains an awareness that both helps – and sometimes hurts – the overall story. With a stacked cast lead by Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell, the film was able to turn typical genre conventions on their head and, when done correctly, made for one of the most engaging watches of this year. 

“See How They Run” is set in London in 1953 and tells the story of the murder of the film director Leo Köpernick, played by Adrien Brody. Köpernick was set to direct an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s West End smash hit “The Mousetrap,” which is ironically where the murder occurs. World weary detective Inspector Stoppard, played by Rockwell, is put on the case with the unwanted help of a new officer named Constable Stalker, played by Ronan. 

The two officers have multiple suspects, ranging from the screenwriter trying to adapt the Christie play all the way to lead actor in “The Mousetrap,” Richard Attenborough. This name might sound familiar to some because the real Attenborough played John Hammond in the original “Jurassic Park.” 

Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker interrogate multiple suspects and soon come to blows, causing them to stop working on the case together. That same night, the killer invites all of the suspects to a dinner party at the real Agatha Christie’s house, who reveals himself to be an usher named Dennis Corrigan. He works at the theater where the play is performed. His vendetta against Köpernick stems from the fact that “The Mousetrap” was based on the life and the death of his younger brother. 

The story concludes with Stopper and Stalker realizing who the killer is on their own, saving the guests of the doomed dinner party together before Dennis can cause any more harm. 

Director Tom George’s stylistic choices were clearly indebted to the work of Wes Anderson, at times to the detriment of the film. The use of symmetry and split screen to capture multiple reactions at the same time worked, but became distracting at certain moments. 

Throughout the course of “See How They Run,” writer Mark Chappell is able to make this typical murder mystery into its own by having the story be extremely self referencial. For the most part, this awareness was fun to watch as an audience member, but at times, it did feel unearned. 

The most notable example of this meta awareness happens when Brody’s character outlines his intended ending for the film version of “The Mousetrap” to the appalled screenwriter, played by David Oyelowo. The storyboard that Köpernick shows during this scene turns out to be the exact same way that the dinner party ends: with the two officers risking their lives and putting a stop to the killer. 

While the subversion of genre conventions made audiences members pay more attention to the story because important details were almost always going to be brought up again, the movie faltered in one major way: the twist. 

The twist relies solely on the audience having some basic understanding of “The Mousetrap”’s plot, and unfortunately this understanding is something that the movie doesn’t provide. There are a few scenes where parts of the play are shown, but these are more to advance the criminal investigation than to give the viewer information on the play. 

These twists and turns would not work if it wasn’t for the performances of stellar cast lead by Ronan and Rockwell. Unsurprisingly, the “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” actress did not disappoint and was definitely the heart of the film. Hearing Ronan’s Katherine Hepburn impersonation is something that every film lover needs to experience with the loudest sound system they can access. 

Rockwell plays the alcoholic, worldweery inspector almost too perfectly. His dynamic with Ronan was a pleasure to watch. One grievance with the film was that our two main characters were underdeveloped and the audience only knows surface level details about them. While the movie moves too fast to give these details, it would have been nice to see the characters more fleshed out. 

Overall, “See How They Run” was a fun period comedy that fans of theater and Agatha Christie will especially enjoy. At only an hour and a half runtime, the movie is able to create a pleasurable viewing experience that doesn’t drag on for too long. Despite an underwhelming twist, the comedy and performances make it well worth a watch. “See How They Run” is in theaters now.