In the tradition of ‘Whodunnit‘ mysteries, no author is quite as prolific as Agatha Christie, writer of 66 novels, 14 short story collections and The Mousetrap: famed as the longest-running play in the world (only stopped during the height of the you-know-what). See How They Run, directed by Tom George (This Country), is a meta pastiche of the Christie narrative formulas, setting it’s murder mystery around the original stage run of The Mousetrap.
To call See How They Run a spoof may seem a little reductive, but there’s a self-awareness to the story, opening with the murder victim sardonically lamenting the rather clichéd nature of his demise, and constantly playing with audience expectations of the archetypal Christie-style murder mystery. These self-aware nods are initially fun, although they quickly become a bit too repetitive – there’s only so many times the film can point out the clichés and then follow them exactly to avoid breaking the rigid ‘Whodunnit’ formula. It’s quite bombastic and rarely subtle, resulting in some rather obvious foreshadowing, but makes up for it with some funny gags, entertaining characters and fast pace.
There is of course an ensemble cast of suspects, with some great British talent including Reece Shearsmith, Ruth Wilson, Sian Clifford, Harris Dickinson, Charlie Cooper, Tim Key, Pearl Chanda, Pippa Bennett-Warner, (an actor I won’t be spoil) and David Oyelowo (delivering a wonderfully camp performance) – all of whom are interviewed one-by-one in keeping with tradition. Sam Rockwell and Adrien Brody bring a touch of Hollywood to the proceedings as the eccentric detective and unlikable victim respectively (Rockwell seems to be channelling a bit of Jack Sparrow in his role), but easily the highlight of the entire cast is Saoirse Ronan as the endearingly over-enthusiastic Constable Stalker. Ronan has some great comic moments, and really carries the film’s light, playful tone.
Overall, See How They Run is a nice homage to Agatha Christie, blending real history with a fictitious narrative in a fourth-wall breaking story that will no doubt be more appealing to some than others. There’s a touch of Wes Anderson and Rian Johnson‘s Knives Out – although I think it’s fair to say that it’s not nearly as good as the latter’s Christie-influenced film. At 98 minutes, the film doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, the 50’s production design is distinctive, and the twists and turns are fun – even if you can see them coming from a mile away. For those looking for a new cinematic ‘Whodunnit’, See How They Run well worth a watch.
Yup, not quite Knives Out, but it’ll do; I can’t remember a major release quite so light and frothy….
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