Culture

See How They Run review: meta whodunnit is a zany celebration of London’s theatreland

Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan on the case in See How They Run

We’re in London, it’s the Fifties, and Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is celebrating its 100th theatrical performance. The show is such a smash there are plans afoot for a movie version, until the prospective American director is murdered. World weary Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and overly-eager sidekick Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) are charged with finding whodunit.

So begins this meta comedy mystery, a sterling directorial debut by BAFTA-winning director Tom George (This Country). Think Knives Out by way of Only Murders… via Wes Anderson. 

The script by Mark Chappell is peppered with delightfully daft gags.  The pace and delivery won’t be for everyone, but I laughed loud and consistently.

The comedy is clever, but importantly the movie also works as a mystery.  There’s no end of suspects, and a grand motive: contractually the producers can’t film the play until six months after its theatrical run ends. To that end, the corpses begin to pile up.

The ensemble cast chew the stage scenery with obvious relish. Joining our detective duo are Adrien Brody (The Pianist), as American director Leo Kopernick, Ruth Wilson (His Dark Materials), as theatre impresario Petulab ‘Choo’ Spencer and David Oyelowo (Selma), as scriptwriter and Clark Gable wannabe Mervyn Cocker-Norris. Reece Shearsmith (Inside No. 9), plays film producer John Woolf.

See How They Run takes a satirical look at the murder mystery genre, with affectionate nods beyond Agatha Christie to J. B. Priestly and Tom Stoppard…

See How They Run takes a satirical look at the murder mystery genre, with affectionate nods beyond Agatha Christie to J. B. Priestly and Tom Stoppard.

Lensed by Jamie D. Ramsay, the film also looks West End accurate, not least because it was shot inside actual London theatres of the period, including the Old Vic and Hoxton Hall. A benefit of shooting during the pandemic, apparently.

The Old Vic provides the main auditorium, with the Dominion Theatre doubling as front of house. Exteriors were shot at the St. Martin’s where The Mousetrap is still packing in the tourists. Other locations include the Savoy, Windsor Great Park and a property once owned by Richard Attenborough (who cameos here, played by Harris Dickinson).

The conceit behind See How They Run is actually based on fact. The Mousetrap has never been made into a film. Back in the day, producer Woolf optioned the rights, but Christie put a killer clause into the contract that stipulated no movie could be made until six months after the play closed, but it never did.

As it stands, we may never get to see The Mousetrap on the big screen, but See How They Run stands as a delightful understudy.

See How They Run is directed by Tom George, and stars Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, and Reece Shearsmith. Rated 12A, 98 mins.

About Steve May

Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, and editor of The Luxe Review, Steve muses and reviews for Trusted Reviews, T3, Yahoo UK, Home Cinema Choice, Games Radar, Ideal Home, Louder Sounds, Channel News and Boat International. He’s also the editor of professional home cinema website Inside CI. He's on Twitter and Instagram as @SteveMay_UK

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