While it never went away, the Whodunit genre is having a bit of a resurgence. The Kenneth Branagh helmed Poirot outings followed by the popularity of Knives Out and the fervor for its upcoming sequel, Glass Onion, are just a few signs that people are ready to head to the theater for a good mystery. See How They Run is now entering the fray and quickly being compared to the films of Wes Anderson due to its style and cast. But, See How They Run has some very interesting tricks up its sleeve.
Hollywood director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) is in London for a celebration of the 100th performance of a smash hit West End show. He isn’t there by chance though. He’s been tapped to direct the big screen Hollywood version of the beloved stage play. That is, until he is found dead before the party ends. Enter Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), assisted by Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), to find the culprit behind this heinous crime. Was it the play’s write, whose screenplay didn’t mesh with the director’s vision? Maybe the way Leo was talking to the lead’s wife caused a rift? Or maybe a spurned producer had something to do with it?
You may have read/will read other reviews of this film that will unabashedly give away details about See How They Run that I think are better kept secret until you see it. Therefore, this review will not mention the name of the play at the center of all of this. It is a real production and many of the facts presented in the film about the show, are real facts. Sure, if you’re in the know about these things and see the name of a real life actor in the trailer that is being portrayed in the proceedings, you can figure it out. But there is a reason the trailer scrubbed the name of the play from the posters hanging all around. So, no spoilers here, people!
Story aside, See How They Run is made by its cast. Ronan and Rockwell bounce off each other like they are a classic comedy duo. David Oyelowo is magnificent as the tense, yet overly eager writer. Personal favorites Reece Shearsmith and Tim Key provide wonderful seasoning around the edges. While mystery/murder mainstays the likes of Ruth Wilson hold down the fort of suspicion. There are just too many lovely performances from too many talented people to go through them all. They are what hold up this swift jaunt in some of its more questionable spaces. They’re a solid team with very few cracks.
See How They Run is both cliché and hyper analytical. There is a meta state the story lives in that is a positive, as much as a negative. The whole premise is built around the idea that no real world murder would unfold the way they do in classic crime novel, as the characters expedience just that situation. Saoirse Ronan’s Constable Stalker acts as the audience as she jumps to conclusions and talks every clue as the final nail in someone’s coffin. At times, it can feel like the film is making fun of the viewer for ever reacting in the same way. Inspector Stoppard is here to be the snobby (though nonchalant) intellectual friend who keeps trying to bring the viewer back down to earth.
Ultimately, that is what See How They Run is all about. Sure, the Whodunit entertainment space might be crowded at times, and it most certainly can be cliché. But even as this Whodunit’s ending is blatantly foreshadowed early on…it still just asks that you sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Oh, and then let other people do the same, without ruining it for them.
Final Grade: B-
Check out more of Matthew’s articles.
Here’s the trailer of the film.