By: Cole Schaefer
A little over a year ago, in September of 2022, a relatively small British film was released to moderate fanfare. While the movie was a commercial success and sat in the box office Top 10 for a couple of weeks, it mostly fell by the wayside until it was released online for streaming, where it again found itself in the Top 10 for two weeks before shifting out of the spotlight once more.
See How They Run (2022) is Tom George’s motion picture directorial debut, which makes the limited success of the film impressive, but not too surprising. George got his start directing the British TV show This Country (2017 – 2020), and his prowess behind the camera is quite apparent throughout the film. Supported by an excellent cast of Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, and Adrien Brody (in a more limited, but equally crucial, role), George creates a funny and engaging twist on the murder mystery trope, a 98-minute-long game of whodunnit.
The story follows the play The Mousetrap, a real play written by Agatha Christie, and one that holds the record for the longest-running play in the world. The film is set in London’s West End in 1953, and while various characters squabble over attempts to turn the play into a major motion picture, the American director slated to direct the project, Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), finds himself the target of a backstage assassination following the 100th night of the play’s performance.
Scotland Yard Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), an unkempt, functioning alcoholic, finds himself assigned to the case, backed up by the naïve Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan). The two are given the monumental task of solving the high-profile murder alone, while the rest of the force investigates a secret serial killer. I’d like to take a moment to mention how wonderfully Rockwell and Ronan work together, playing the Buddy Cop trope in their own way. Inspector Stoppard, obviously wanting to work alone, must put up with a walking encyclopedia of film knowledge and timely, yet situationally inappropriate, jokes. However, while young and nervous about her first big case, Constable Stalker is eager to get the job done, and the two inevitably share a mutual respect. Still, it takes until the end of the film for Stoppard and Stalker to fully trust each other, with the climax of the film being just as much about solving the murders as it is about the both of them learning to work as a team.
Trust me, the movie isn’t nearly as cheesy as I’m making it sound. Also, did I just say “murders”? Hmmm…
Regardless, the film is incredibly fun to watch. It almost feels like a game that the viewer is a part of, with countless clues throughout the plot that lead the audience in a dozen different directions over who could be the killer. Almost every major character has a potential motive for murdering Leo Kopernick, be it to stop the movie’s production, as revenge for Kopernick’s general asshole behavior, or to make sure an affair stays secret. Constable Stalker almost embodies the viewers’ emotions, becoming convinced a suspect is guilty every time a new motive is uncovered.
Inspector Stoppard keeps Stalker in line (for the most part) throughout the film, warning her, “DO NOT JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS,” something she makes careful note of in her investigation notebook. But Stalker doesn’t take the advice to heart; she writes down everything anyway, and this tip isn’t that special. The audience doesn’t listen to the advice either, as we find ourselves, alongside Constable Stalker, convinced of a seemingly unlikely, but surprisingly convincing, suspect. But everyone should have listened to Stoppard since we’re practically told who the killer is within the first few minutes of the film. It was just up to the viewer to recognize that writing on the wall.
It’s this sneaky addition of minor details that rewards the viewer for watching the film multiple times. There are countless hints throughout that I never would have picked up on during the first viewing, but upon watching it again, you realize that everything important is spelled out for you. You just have to look past the red herrings and humor that distract you from the real killer lurking right under our noses.
See How They Run is like a less-serious, more comedic twist on films like Knives Out (2019). The movie pokes fun at itself, such as when Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo),
overrated celebrated playwright, complains that flashbacks are a lazy writing technique, immediately following an extensive flashback. Humor is one of the movie’s strong points, and Saoirse Ronan’s comedic abilities are in full swing throughout the whole runtime. Her matter-of-fact deliveries and facial expressions carry half the jokes in the film, and it really feels like the role was made specifically for her. Additionally, Agatha Christie (Shirley Henderson, who you might recognize as Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter franchise), makes her appearance toward the end and behaves exactly how you would expect Agatha Christie to act, at least based on her writing. That woman is surprisingly vicious, allowing Leo Kopernick to get the last laugh in from beyond the grave.
With all that being said, See How They Run is a bit silly, making it not exactly the best film ever made. Still, I never felt bored while watching it, and it really does keep the viewer engaged throughout. It almost feels like Knives Out meets Wes Anderson, which probably either sounds amazing or unbearably annoying to most people. But I definitely recommend it, I feel like it deserved more attention than it got, and I’ll be looking forward to whatever Tom George does next.
It’s pretty darn enjoyable, and if I had to rate the movie, I’d say it’s a “go give it a shot” out of 10. You can watch See How They Run on a multitude of streaming services today, so go have a look!