Review: See How They Run | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, October 6th, 2022  

See How They Run

Studio: Searchlight Pictures
Director: Tom George

Sep 07, 2022 Web Exclusive
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The rejuvenation of the murder mystery is well underway, thanks in main part to Rian Johnson’s 2019 box-office hit Knives Out that delighted audiences and critics alike with a return to the house of whodunit? With a sequel due out this year, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, purchased expensively and almost immediately by Netflix, it’s a fresh moment in the spotlight for the Agatha Christie-style tale of murder and intrigue—a genre that had found itself in the shadows of modern cinema, having made way for grittier, meatier thrillers.

But the best-selling author has found her way back into film, with British stalwart Kenneth Branagh the latest to take on Christie’s work in 2017 with Murder on the Orient Express followed by the pandemic (and controversial) hit Death on the Nile, finally released earlier this year. It’s no surprise then to see Disney trying to cash-in on the trend with See How They Run, a curious little film released under the Searchlight Pictures banner.

Set in London’s West End in 1953, the murder takes place when Hollywood director Leo (Adrien Brody) meets a grisly end at a party celebrating the 100th performance of Agatha Christie’s play, The Mousetrap. This very real play would go on to become the longest running stage play of all time, only halted temporarily by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. However here we’re at the humble beginnings of the production, where a young Richard Attenborough commands the lead role and Hollywood interest in adapting the play for the silver screen is causing tension amongst the cast and crew.

As this boils over into murder, we’re soon joined by the world-weary Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and his soon-to-be-sidekick Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan). If this sounds a little familiar then that’s the point. See How They Run is very meta, at times using Brody’s narration to navigate well-trodden territory with an ironic touch. Even the flashbacks are signposted with a wry nod to the audience’s existing knowledge of how these things normally go. It’s all very clever, or at least it thinks it is.

All the winking and nodding goes some way to cover up what is a poorly constructed plot, and if it weren’t for a genuinely fun opening 20 minutes, with a sparkling Saoirse Ronan delivering the laughs, this might’ve been one to totally avoid. But such is the power of an all-star cast that Ronan, alongside a hangdog Sam Rockwell, and an array of familiar, mostly British faces do just enough to carry this romp until the halfway point. With just enough goodwill squeezed out of its premise, cast, and glitzy costume design, the film’s cratering is just about bearable and thankfully it isn’t long before the film’s “denouement” that takes place somewhere you might not expect—because it doesn’t make much sense.

Nevertheless, at just a touch over 90 minutes, the end comes mercifully swiftly, and it’s to the film’s credit that by sacrificing a cohesive story, it at least loses some of the bloat that sinks similar fare.

What See How They Run lacks in substance, it attempts to make up for in style, but the film borrows too closely from the Wes Anderson playbook, a filmmaker whose deliberate aesthetic and whimsical, quirky comedy may be easily replicated or satirised, but whose trademark style has been built up over nearly 30 years of filmmaking. See How They Run may be a more palatable option for those who couldn’t make it through The French Dispatch, but it lacks the charm of Anderson’s catalogue, the character strength of your classic TV detectives, or even the likeable authenticity of recent British capers like The Duke or The Phantom of the Open.

In situating itself somewhere between Branagh’s self-important Poirot updates and the classic country-house thriller, the film seems a little lost. Overly reliant on its witty dialogue and eye-catching look, it’s not nearly strong enough to stand out in a year when Knives Out 2, David O’Russell’s star-studded Amsterdam, and Helina Reijn’s uber-modern Bodies Bodies Bodies look set to grab the headlines in what’s suddenly become a crowded murder-mystery landscape. Watchable yet ultimately disappointing, this film seems destined for the streaming algorithm to see which cast members image garners the most clicks.

At the end of The Mousetrap, theatre audiences are reminded not to divulge the twist at the end, helping to keep the play’s secrets alive for future audiences. There isn’t too much danger of that happening here. With the film’s forgettable ending, it might be difficult to remember whodunit anyway. (www.searchlightpictures.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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