This article was originally published on 9/16/22.
I am, admittedly, a sucker for a good, old-fashioned, mid-twentieth-century period piece. Anyone who reads my reviews probably knows this already. So, it should be no surprise that See How They Run became one of my most anticipated films of 2022 as soon as the trailer dropped. Then, adding in Saoirse Ronan? I knew I’d be there with bells on. As I sat down to watch the movie, though, I knew next to nothing. Is it worth venturing out to theaters to watch See How They Run on the big screen? Well, read on, everyone.
See How They Run drops us squarely into the famed West End of London. The action surrounds a play, The Mousetrap, which we learn, is set to receive a feature film version. However, there is one problem. The play is too successful. Everything changes when the filmmaker (Adrien Brody) is murdered (Not really a spoiler!) Not to worry, though; Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker (Ronan) are on the case. Harris Dickinson, Ruth Wilson and David Oyelowo co-star in the movie. Tom George directs See How They Run from a script by Mark Chappell.
Over the last decade, Saoirse Ronan emerged as an awards season darling of the highest order. Every year she’s in the running for the industry’s biggest prizes for her work in an untold number of sweeping period epics.
This time out, she steps away from the heavier, dramatic fair to astonishing (and refreshing!) effect. Hopping into the role of the hungry and ambitious Constable Stalker, Ronan is a joy to watch. She shows herself to have a flair for the movie’s light comedic tone and, in truth, steals the show right out from under this talented cast. She’s likable to the extreme, and Ronan understands exactly what drives this woman.
Unfortunately, Ronan’s performance is so strong that the usually great Rockwell pales in comparison. Rockwell’s relatively grounded portrayal always feels ever-so-slightly out of place in this witty comedy.
Stoppard is always slightly off-kilter as he skirts between Inspector Clouseau levels of ineptitude and moments where he’s almost the lone “straight man.” On paper, this is Rockwell’s movie. However, in the face of Ronan’s performance, his role becomes almost a character part, and this critic wanted more out of this character.
There’s a lot of history in See How They Run, which won’t be common knowledge to audiences outside the United Kingdom. It’s difficult to say if this might hinder those less familiar with this story’s deeply rooted legacy. Personally, I looked up The Mousetrap after watching the film because I did feel like I wasn’t “in on” something.
Chappell’s script is a savvy one. The screenplay possesses a deep sense of (and love for) history, murder mysteries and especially classic film. For those who might not be familiar, The Mousetrap is a murder mystery holding deep roots in the West End.
The Mousetrap is an actual play that opened in 1952, featuring a script by the legendary and iconic genius Agatha Christie. Richard “Dickie” Attenborough (more on him later) toplined the original cast with his wife Sheila Sim (both of whom are characters in this film.) Interestingly, The Mousetrap never actually closed (a joke those unfamiliar with the play will miss in this movie.) Aside from a hiatus during covid quarantine, the murder mystery is still running 70 years later.
To return to Sir Dickie Attenborough … yours truly had a qualm. This is (admittedly) a nitpicky point. As mentioned, See How They Run is clearly invested in history. As such, this classic film fan was befuddled by actor Harris Dickinson’s casting.
In a film so rooted in history, Dickinson’s lack of resemblance to Attenborough is noticeable. Dickinson does everything he can and certainly brings his A-game. Unfortunately, while Dickinson does try to capture Attenborough’s distinctive cadence, Dickinson looks nothing like the acting titan. Ultimately, the choice proves distracting for those with interests rooted in film history.
As the film reaches its third act, it takes multiple fast, hard narrative left turns meant to keep audiences on their toes. The build to the conclusion feels disjointed from the rest of the movie. In many moments, See How They Run analyzes and dissects the classic mystery novel and The Mousetrap’s revolutionary twist ending. So, in that, this is likely this is a purposeful choice. Ultimately though, the easy, breeze pace of the early acts gradually begins to slow and feels weighed down as the movie builds to its conclusion.
Director Tom George makes his feature-length debut with See How They Run and if the look of this film is any indication, he’ll have a long career in front of him. George melds seamlessly with his creative team in crafting a glossy, luscious visual style deeply reminiscent of Wes Anderson‘s work. Fans of the fantastical auteur will find a lot to like in this gorgeously quirky picture from this up-and-coming crew. Here’s to seeing where they go from here.
Director Tom George paints a fun and breezy picture in See How They Run. This movie takes real inspiration from Agatha Christie, and like the famous author, it’s incredibly easy to become hooked. See How They Run is cinematic candy. It looks great, the characters are memorable and it keeps audiences on their toes until the very end. Just try and guess who the killer is! As they say, “It’s always the one you least suspect.”
See How They Run opens in theaters everywhere on September 16, 2022.
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