The game is most definitely afoot in the new mystery comedy film “See How They Run,” a clever take on the classic whodunit style of murder mystery story. Directed by Tom George, the film is set in London in the 1950s, and follows Scotland Yard’s Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) as they pursue the killer of American film director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody).
Kopernick’s death comes in the middle of his work planning a movie adaptation of “The Mousetrap,” an Agatha Christie murder mystery play that is selling out on West End. As Stoppard and Stalker track down possible suspects, they run into a number of characters, including the film’s writer, Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo), producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith), and the play’s leading man, Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson).
In real life, “The Mousetrap” opened in 1952 to become the longest-running play in history, pausing only for the COVID-19 pandemic. “See How They Run” takes inspiration from Agatha Christie, with character names and lines throughout the movie serving as Easter eggs for fans of the author’s work. For viewers hoping to see a Christie-level depth of mystery, “See How They Run” is certainly packed with twists and turns, with suspicion cast on a remarkable range of characters.
The two stars of the film, Rockwell and Ronan, are impeccably cast. Sporting an appropriately bushy mustache and a believable English accent, Rockwell wears the role of the inspector with a jaded but charismatic allure. He plays perfectly off of Ronan’s bright-eyed Constable Stalker, a capable young woman trying to make it in Scotland Yard. Under Stoppard’s not-so-watchful eye, Stalker is left to learn what she can from the tired detective inspector.
The film entrusts much of its entertainment value to this pair, who handle that responsibility admirably. Their comic balance on screen is funny and charming, and their conflicting relationship, a weary veteran detective and a rookie on the force, is endearing. The supporting characters are just as interesting, especially Brody’s portrayal of Kopernick as a sleazy director whose opening off-screen narration brings the audience into the world of the film. A surprise appearance from Agatha Christie herself (Shirley Henderson) is also brilliantly funny, and the group dynamic of the cast becomes more and more engaging as the film goes on.
Without spoiling the various twists and turns of the movie, “See How They Run” makes the most of a smart script. The movie’s premise, of controversy around a film adaptation of a stage play, becomes very meta, with clear commentary on cinema and mystery movies that never becomes annoying or overbearing.
Daniel Pemberton’s score is another unexpected highlight of the film, building intrigue and suspense. Pemberton, who wrote the music for another Rockwell-led film released this year, “The Bad Guys,” engages delightfully with the mystery and comedy of “See How They Run.”
It appears that the season for mystery movies has arrived in the world of cinema. “See How They Run” adds to a number of mystery films arriving in 2022, with two much-anticipated follow-ups releasing on Netflix: “Glass Onion,” the sequel to“Knives Out,” and “Enola Holmes 2,” both scheduled to arrive later this year. With a brisk runtime of 98 minutes, “See How They Run” is an enjoyable take on the genre that employs its fantastic cast to full effect.
Jem Shin can be reached at email@example.com.