See How They Run is a Searchlight Pictures film directed by Tom George and written by Mark Chappell. It’s 1953, and the West End of London has been captivated by the Broadway version of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. A film version is in the works but soon grinds to a screeching halt when director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) is found murdered. Slovenly Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) is paired with hyper-observant Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) in order to solve the case, and soon the duo finds themselves in a murder mystery that has more twists and turns than expected.
Or at the very least, it tries to but falls flat. The opening monologue is proof of this, as Kopernick delivers a snarky monologue on the conventions of the whodunnit. He even says “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all” without a hint of irony. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s another scene featuring a character saying that flashbacks are the laziest form of writing, only to immediately go into a flashback. Chappell’s script is trying to be more clever than it is, but it’s one thing to comment on the tropes that appear in a genre and another to actually do something to subvert those tropes or do a fresh take on them. Considering that there’s been more than a few films and TV shows that have put their own spin on the genre, this one comes up woefully short.
The pacing of the film also feels extremely repetitive. The film breaks down into a series of sequences: Stoppard and Stalker question a suspect. The suspect gives their story. Stalker jumps to conclusions. Stoppard gets a drink. Things briefly flare to life in the third act, which contains a rather ingenious twist. But George does deserve some credit for coming up with an ingenious visual touch to differentiate the past from the present. Whenever one of the suspects tells their story, the screen shrinks to a widescreen format, giving off a more cinematic—and well, dramatic—presentation of events. Editors Gary Dollner and Peter Lambert add more visual flourishes throughout, including the repeated shutting of car doors that feels like a 50s-era ASMR.
See How They Run‘s faults could have been avoided if it was anchored by a great cast. However, only one of the two leads is playing an interesting character, and it’s Ronan. Her performance as Stalker is extremely endearing: she’s a fan of theater, very savvy when it comes to the works of Agatha Christie, and writes everything down. Ronan even delivers her lines in a mile-a-minute clip, pausing to apologize or point out an obvious fact. In contrast, Rockwell feels like he’s slumming it throughout the entire picture. Granted, his character’s fallen on hard times, but there’s little of the charm or snark that’s made his other roles stand out. And his English accent is horrendous.
The rest of the cast is woefully underutilized. While David Oyelowo and Harris Dickinson make for some delightful casting as a pretentious playwright and a young Richard Attenborough (yes Jurassic Park fans, that Richard Attenborough) their scenes are few and far between. Not to mention that Ruth Wilson’s saddled with a thankless role as the manager of the theater where the murder takes place. You’d think one of the best actors in Luther would receive a meatier role. In fact, out of all the cast, only Brody is given the chance to rise to Ronan’s level. With his devil-may-care attitude and thick New York accent, he makes for an interesting murder victim. Especially since Kopernick is revealed to be quite the sleazebag as more and more flashbacks pepper the plot.
See How They Run attempts to skewer the whodunnit genre, but its ambition far exceeds what it brings to the table in terms of character and story. There have been more interesting takes on the genre, most notably Only Murders in the Building, and I’d recommend watching those over this. But Saoirse Ronan deserves major props for carrying the entire endeavor on her back.
See How They Run premieres in theaters nationwide on September 16, 2022.
See How They Run
See How They Run attempts to skewer the whodunnit genre, but its ambition far exceeds what it brings to the table in terms of character and story.
Born and raised in Texas, Collier “CJ” Jennings was introduced to geekdom at an early age by his father, who showed him Ultraman and Star Trek: The Next Generation. On his thirteenth birthday, he received a copy of Giant Size X-Men #1 and dove head first into the realm of pop culture, never looking back. His hobbies include: writing screenplays and essays, watching movies and television, card games/RPG’s, and cooking. He currently resides in Seattle.