Cinema trends come from unexpected places. After decades as a mainstay on Sunday afternoon TV, the whodunit seemed to take off in Hollywood after the success of Murder On The Orient Express and Knives Out. Both were the start of forthcoming trilogies, and hoping to replicate that success is murderous comedy See How They Run.
The film is set in 1950s London, during the early success of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. The future mainstay of the West End is celebrating its 100th performance, but the joy is soon shattered when Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody), a Hollywood producer desperate to adapt the play into a film, is murdered. With the elite of the theatre scene all suspects, it’s up to weary detective inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and eager rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) to crack the case.
This self-referential set up is smart (whodunit Inception, if you will). However, as with most knowingly intelligent plots, not everything works as it should. Tying itself in knots as it tries to outsmart the viewer, the appeal of the film comes in the interaction between characters. Skewering luvvie culture while also lovingly paying tribute to stage tradition, the brilliantly cast ensemble create a world that’s fun to dive into.
Showbiz historians will love the references to real life anecdotes, while Harris Dickinson nails the difficult task of playing industry giant Sir Richard Attenborough. It’s all about the detectives, however, as Rockwell and Ronan steal every moment. Knowing exactly how to complement each other, Ronan’s notepad-clutching novice records everything she sees and is reigned in by Rockwell’s cynical veteran, who has no time for the glitz and glamour.
Like Hercule Poirot or Knives Out’s Benoit Blanc, the sleuths at the centre of See How They Run are the real reason for buying a ticket. The mystery may be messy, but the performances earn the applause.