Tom George | 1hr 38min
The closest that Wes Anderson has ever gotten to constructing a murder mystery in his pastel world of eccentric ensembles and dioramas would be The Grand Budapest Hotel, but director Tom George gives us the next best thing in the delightfully quirky See How They Run. It opens on the 100th performance of Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap on West End, and talks of adapting it into a Hollywood movie sees American director Leo Köpernick fly over to sign contracts, antagonise stakeholders, and ultimately die at the hands of a masked assailant. His post-mortem narration is keenly self-aware, criticising the trite conventions of whodunits as they play out before out before our eyes in flashbacks and character archetypes.
“You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.”
There’s just a single problem here – for all its playful twists and techniques, this statement rings too true in See How They Run’s extraordinarily familiar plotting, lacking the originality of Rian Johnson’s captivating Knives Out series or the narrative intricacy of Agatha Christie’s novels. The Mousetrap becomes a template of sorts for Mark Chappell’s screenplay, which directly references and splits the play’s double-twist into two separate reveals, one of which is hilariously undermined as a false lead, and the other leaving us somewhat underwhelmed. Even in this star-studded cast of suspects, few are developed well enough for us to engage with the implications of their potential guilt.
Instead, it is our two leading detectives played by Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell who are the most compelling figures in See How They Run, forming a terrific comedic duo as the eager young constable and the jaded senior inspector. Their chemistry is impeccable, and their conflicting mannerisms are well-defined, leading them through misadventures which are often far more exciting than their actual investigation. With Ronan in a lead role and a smarmy Adrien Brody filling in the role of the doomed murder victim, Köpernick, George notably pulls in two of Wes Anderson’s regular collaborators to put their deadpan spin on the script’s witty dialogue, building a rhythm that pulses to the beat of the sharply-paced editing.
In fact, it is primarily in that self-conscious artifice of freeze frames, split screens, and neatly composed visuals that the film flourishes, seeing George borrow from Anderson’s stylistic repertoire. With symmetrical frames and the camera’s perpendicular angles frequently keeping us a distance from the actors, everything is set up perfectly for this meta-study of a classic genre, irreverently breaking it down into parts before assembling it again into a buddy cop mystery. There are whodunits out there which may be more sophisticated in their construction, but See How They Run still makes for a visually adventurous and hilariously fun entry into the canon.
See How They Run is currently streaming on Disney Plus, and is available to buy on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Video.