Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Sam Rockwell as Inspector Stoppard
Saoirse Ronan as Constable Stalker
Adrien Brody as Leo Köpernick
Ruth Wilson as Petula Spencer
Reece Shearsmith as John Woolf
Harris Dickinson as Richard Attenborough
Charlie Cooper as Dennis Corrigan
David Oyelowo as Mervyn Cocker-Norris
Director: Tom George
In 1950s London, plans for a movie version of a smash-hit play come to an abrupt halt after a pivotal member of the crew is murdered. When a world-weary inspector and an eager rookie constable take on the case, they find themselves thrown into a puzzling whodunit within the glamorously sordid world of underground theater, investigating the mysterious homicide at their own peril.
I saw the trailers for See How They Run and I was initially interested in it. It appeared to be another comedy whodunit film and featured an excellent cast, including Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrian Brody and more. I did end up enjoying it, but I understand the somewhat mixed reviews.
See How They Run definitely has potential from its premise. The plot focuses on a murder investigation set during a theatre adaptation of a whodunit, and it effectively works as a homage and parody of Agatha Christie’s whodunits. As such, it is very self-aware and references whodunnit tropes and typical stories of the genre. There’s plenty of witty and quirky dialogue, as well as some good humour here. It also benefits from a mostly easy-going and relaxed tone. Unfortunately, like most other parodies, when See How They Run points out cliches and tropes, it ends up using some of those same tropes. It’s a very self-satisfied and overly self-aware movie that does too much winking at the audience, so that could feel a bit grating. It is clear early on that from the writing and the style that it is going for a Wes Anderson feel, especially with the snappy dialogue and quirkiness. Unfortunately, it just feels like an imitation of his films and nothing more. Even the plot wasn’t the exactly the best. It is very formulaic albeit functional, and I wasn’t fully invested in the mystery. At 98 minutes, it was probably the right length for the film.
The two lead characters of the movie are played by Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell, and they were a great comedic duo and have solid chemistry between them. Ronan is the standout; she was really funny and her performance added a lot to the movie. The film would be lacking a lot without her. Meanwhile, Rockwell feels like he wasn’t given much to do, and mostly works as a contrast to Ronan. On his own, outside of delivering deadpan humour, he was underwhelming and almost drags the movie down. It’s quite possible that he was just miscast here. The talented supporting cast is impressive, however there were only a few standouts like Adrien Brody, David Oyelowo and Shirley Anderson; Brody particularly was memorable in his screentime as the main murder victim. The rest of the cast including Ruth Wilson and Sian Clifford are good but aren’t utilized the best.
The direction from Tom George is generally solid. The cinematography is nice, and the outfits and production designs definitely take you back to the 1950s. The score from Daniel Pemberton is also great, among the best parts of the movie. Once again though, it feels like much of the film is trying to imitate Wes Anderson’s style (especially seen in the editing), but feels like a half hearted imitation. It’s trying to be quirky and offbeat but it felt hollow like its missing something.
See How They Run is a decent, quirky, and enjoyable whodunnit comedy, but I wish it was better than it actually was. The mystery was passable but wasn’t that riveting, the overt attempt at mimicking Wes Anderson in the writing and directing didn’t really work, and the underutilisation of most of the cast really hold it back from being as good as it could’ve been. But there’s some good parts. Some of the humour and meta nature of the writing works, the score from Daniel Pemberton is really good, and some of the performances shines, particularly Saoirse Ronan. As a whodunnit comedy, See How They Run may not be among the best (even in recent years), but it is at least fun to watch.