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Review: ‘See How They Run’ is a Quirky, Agatha Christie-Inspired Ensemble Comedy with Shades of the Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson

September 7, 2022Ben MK

Widely considered to be the bestselling author of all time, Agatha Christie helped define the murder mystery genre and to this day remains one of its most influential and iconic figures, having penned such masterpieces as Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None and Crooked House, many of which have been adapted for the stage and screen over the past few decades. But what if one of Christie's own stories became the backdrop for a head-scratching whodunit worthy of the Queen of Crime herself? That's the premise behind See How They Run, an ensemble comedy that sees an odd couple pair of police officers tasked with catching a dangerous killer on the loose in London's West End.

Set in 1953, the film follows a weary Detective Inspector named Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and an eager yet inexperienced young Constable named Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), who are called to the Ambassador Theatre one night to investigate a shocking turn of events at the 100th performance of Christie's The Mousetrap. After making their way to the scene of the crime, however, what they discover proves to be anything but your average, run-of-the-mill homicide. Instead, they find disgraced Hollywood movie director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) dead on stage, surrounded by the play's stars, Dickie Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) and Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda), its writer Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo), theatre impresario Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson) and film producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith). But who among this list of potential suspects could have committed the heinous act? And could the culprit have more murderous mayhem on their mind?

As Stoppard and Stalker delve deeper into the details of the case and the motives for the murder begin to pile up, the clues they unearth send the duo on a humorous wild goose chase around London. Could inflamed tempers and heated creative differences have led Mervyn to kill Leo in a fit of rage? Or maybe Leo's overzealous attempt to blackmail John, who was having a secret affair with his assistant, backfired on him in the most deadly of ways. Or perhaps it was a jealous ex-husband who did the deed, after Leo fathered an illegitimate son with his ex-wife? No matter how adept viewers are at following breadcrumbs, the revelation of the true killer will likely have audiences guessing till the final act, giving ample time for director Tom George and screenwriter Mark Chappell to toss in more red herrings, while Rockwell and Ronan chew the scenery with their comedic timing.

Still, despite the result's resounding success at evoking the works of such offbeat filmmakers as the Coen brothers, Wes Anderson and Taika Waititi, it's hard to ignore the fact that See How They Run feels very much like an imitation — albeit a quite flattering one — of similar movies in the genre. Make no mistake, the film's cast — which also includes Charlie Cooper as a bumbling theatre usher named Dennis and Tim Key as Stoppard and Stalker's long-suffering boss, Police Commissioner Scott — is definitely first-rate, and the lead pairing of Rockwell and Ronan arguably yields the most welcome and surprising on-screen chemistry since Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in In Bruges. Yet, even with all these qualities going in its favor, the sense of déjà vu is undeniable.

Suffice to say, fans of quirky detective comedies and period murder mysteries will certainly get their fix with See How They Run. Unfortunately, the movie does little to bring anything especially unique or particularly novel to the screen. And with a cast this talented, that's practically something of a crime in and of itself.

See How They Run releases September 16th, 2022 from Searchlight Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for some violence/bloody images and a sexual reference. Its runtime is 1 hr. 38 min.

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