Set in London’s West End in 1953, See How They Run is a comedic murder mystery focused on Agatha Christie’s famous play, The Mousetrap. The Mousetrap is the longest-running initial run of a play, performing continuously from its first show in 1952 to now (they took a Covid break but nobody can fault them for that), with casts changing every year. At the party for the 100th show, the big-shot American director for the supposed upcoming filmed production of the play is found dead on stage. A world-weary detective (Sam Rockwell) teams up with an overeager and delightful young constable (Saoirse Ronan) to hunt for the killer. With twists and charms and a delightful cast of characters and actors to play them, See How They Run is an almost-perfect little film for anyone looking for some laugh-out-loud moments in a movie about murder.
First and foremost, I have to talk about the cleverness of this movie. It plays with the format of the Christie murder mystery and it explicitly tells you so from the very beginning. The film opens with a voiceover of a man talking about the predictability of murder mysteries, with an eccentric cast of characters each with their own quirks and suspicious qualities, as well as one insufferable person who then dies. Lo and behold, we are introduced to an eccentric cast of characters, including both real-life people such as Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickenson) and Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda), and fictional characters like Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) and Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson), as well as the insufferable American, Leo Köpernick, who, shocker, ends up dead. There are many other moments like this, with scenes, settings, and actions laid out in advance and then executed.
My main criticism of the film is when it becomes too obvious that they know they’re being clever, which isn’t often, but can be jarring when it does happen. There’s a brief breaking of the fourth wall at the end which, while referential to The Mousetrap, is off-putting. I also found their clever multiple-perspective camera moments to be unnecessary and difficult to focus on. Otherwise, the whole thing was an enjoyable experience, but it is understandable if that sort of cheekiness isn’t one’s jam.
While it’s not one of those “Christie classic” isolated or remote murder mysteries, See How They Run evokes those comfortable closed-cast murders. It is remarkably funny at times, with Saoirse Ronan’s Constable Stalker providing a steady stream of puns, witticisms, and adorableness. The movie spans a range of emotions from “aww, how sweet” (such as Stalker and Stoppard’s heart-to-heart at the pub) to frightening (but not scary) intensity.
All-in-all, See How They Run is a lovely movie that I enjoyed immensely. You can see it in theaters now or on HBO Max.