September 26, 2022

Murder Mystery Comedy “See How They Run” Innovates and Excites (Review)

Who can say why audiences find murder mysteries to be especially enticing? Perhaps it’s the thrill of being able to solve a conundrum along with the characters, or maybe it’s the unparalleled tension, where quite literally anything could happen — anyone can die, and anyone could be the killer.

Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The more comedically-skewed
See How They Run presses every single one of those buttons. I’ve never been good at figuring out a mystery before it’s revealed, so I typically just sit back and allow the riddles and puzzles to unfold before my eyes, knowing full well the answers I crave for will come. Luckily, See How They Run falls into the Knives Out pile of hybrid murder mystery/comedies that knows its audience so well, it feels comfortable enough to trust them with the subtlety and nuance that has been missing from a fair number of films in the last few decades. Everything is intentional, and everything has a payoff, no matter how pointless it may seem at the time.

Sam Rockwell (Oscar-winning star of 2017’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Saoirse Ronan (four-time Oscar nominee, most recently for 2019’s Little Women) play two police officers in London in the early 1950s, as they assemble a cast of colorful characters to determine who murdered the director of a prospective film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s critically-acclaimed detective tale The Mousetrap. Though it is still running on the West End to this day, in See How They Run, The Mousetrap is celebrating its hundredth performance, which ends up as the inception of the interpersonal conflict between the players in this grand game.

The film is very Christie-an in execution, weaving in the techniques pioneered by the Queen of Crime Fiction herself to create an acutely funny and compelling mystery. The supporting cast is stellar, giving us a host of hammy performances to play up the drama. It includes Harris Dickinson as Richard Attenborough, who really did star in The Mousetrap in the early 50s. Dickinson is a standout, bringing a (likely fictionalized) snide mirth to a beloved real-life figure. After recent roles in The King’s Man and Where the Crawdads Sing, it seems like he’s hitting every conceivable genre in an effort to build his filmography. He also stars in this year’s Palme d’Or winner, Triangle of Sadness, which hits theaters October 7 after a New York Film Festival premiere on October 1. You can read my review of Triangle of Sadness here.

Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Adrien Brody is another standout — he plays Leo Köpernick, the unfortunate murder victim, who also plays the role of the film’s narrator — but no one can hold a candle to Rockwell and Ronan, especially when they’re on-screen together. Their scenes are both hilarious and sweet, and their interactions are endlessly quotable. I hope to see them work together again sometime soon.

Just as we’re seeing a number of new creatives emerge to tell their stories, it would seem like we’re living in a golden age of the murder mystery. See How They Run is the perfect example — a cleverly-written whodunnit with an appropriate flair for the sillier aspects of murder is exactly what keeps the genre alive. Let’s hope the marriage of new voices and innovative ideas continues on.

Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

See How They Run is in theaters now.

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