See How They Run is a comic whodunit that takes place in London’s West End super early in The Mousetrap‘s theatrical run.
Comic whodunits are all the rage right now. It isn’t just that they’re funny but they keep audiences guessing until the end. Even when the reveal comes, you find yourself saying, wait, what?!? How could I have missed that? It’s a genius form of storytelling and there’s never a dull point. It’s interesting, though, that See How They Run plays on the Agatha Christie genre by setting this whodunit at a performance of a play based on her work.
Broadway has always been a source of material for screenplays. It’s no surprise that a blacklisted American filmmaker, Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), finds himself working on such an adaptation. In this case, he’s been hired to adapt The Mousetrap and working with screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo). There is a catch to the film adaptation–the Agatha Christie (Shirley Henderson) has a clause in her contract requiring that there can be no film until after the play’s run ends. During the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals, this wasn’t uncommon. Producers feared that it would hurt their profits and so they forced the studio hands to hold off on releasing their films.
Before we know it, Leo turns up dead and everybody is a suspect. Enter Scotland Yard detective Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) to try and solve the case. Stalker, a cinephile, is so enthusiastic for the job that she writes down every single important thing she hears. The most important: don’t jump to conclusions! Anyway, they both have a different way of working the case and figuring out who the killer is. Both actors have great chemistry with each other that I almost want to see a sequel where they solve a different case. Rockwell’s character is sexist so if you’re wondering where this character fits in with his recent choices, well, you’ve got a good idea.
Because this film is set after the 100th performance it means casting someone as Richard Attenborough. I grew up knowing the actor/director from his role as John Hammond in Jurassic Park and The Lost World. It wasn’t until recently that I saw him in one of his earlier films, The Great Escape. It’s so weird watching Harris Dickinson playing the star at an even earlier point in his career.
The filmmakers took advantage of what the pandemic had to offer by filming in theaters and hotels at a time when they were shut down. It works in the production’s favor, too. This way, they don’t have to worry about building an interior from scratch because it is already there. It’s a celebration not only of theater but what London has to offer.
This film is a clever in how it handles the play. In real life, John Woolf, an uncredited producer of The African Queen, did acquire the film rights. However, the clause prevented him from going forward. As you well know by now, it opened in October 1952 kept running and running and running, much like the Energizer bunny for a total of 68 years until Covid-19 hit and forced them to shut down in March 2020. They reopened in May 2021. In keeping with the secrecy of the play (spoiled at length on Wikipedia), they don’t divulge the play’s secrets. It’s a fun way of using the play as a backdrop even if no adaptation will be made anytime soon.
See How They Run has some fun with the whodunit genre and will play well on rewatch.
DIRECTOR: Tom George
SCREENWRITER: Mark Chappell
CAST: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, Charlie Cooper, Shirley Henderson, Lucian Msamati, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Pearl Chanda, Paul Chahidi, Sian Clifford, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Ania Marson, Tim Key, and David Oyelowo
Searchlight Pictures will release See How They Run on September 16, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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