A film version of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap? It’s genius! If only film director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) hadn’t signed a contract with The Dame (Shirley Henderson) that details filming cannot commence until six months after the end of the play’s theatrical run. It’s baffling to Kopernick; After a hundred performances, the audience presumably knows whodunit in the sly, melodramatic play, but they keep filling the theater and enjoying the production. Is it ever going to end so he can start making his film? He’s not alone in being excited for a film production. It’s 1950s London and the nation is looking forward post-war, ready for the new and exciting. But someone appears to be too excited about the film version when a real dead body shows up on stage after a backstage scuffle.
Not to worry. Scotland Yard is on the case, with cynical Scotland Yard detective Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and enthusiastic new copper Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan). Stoppard’s seen it all and is loath to act on his suspicions, which is more than compensated for by Stalker’s endless enthusiasm both for Hollywood and for leaping to conclusions about who the murderer must be based on the weakest of clues. But this is a mystery within a mystery, because, of course, The Mousetrap is a murder mystery too; could the killer in the play be the real killer? Is Stalker going to get lucky and actually arrest the murderer, or is she going to be so distracted by her task of keeping Inspector Stoppard from getting into trouble with Commissioner Scott (Tim Key)?
Set in the mid-1950s in London, See How They Run is a delightful and amusing romp of a film, where everyone’s having a great time in their roles and the overall production delivers a splendid few hours of entertainment. It’s in the same spirit as the successful 2019 whodunit Knives Out, which resurrected the classic mystery film where there are dozens of suspects, each of whom has a motive that could explain them being the culprit, and one semi-tragic figure who must solve the puzzle to ensure justice is served. The remakes of Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express (both also based on Agatha Christie stories of the same names) fit neatly into this category too. What differentiates See How They Run is that it has more of an intimate feel, with rarely a scene set exterior to a building. It is, unto itself, more of a stage production, which gets a bit mind-boggling, a film that has the sense of a stage production about a murder that happens during, well, a stage production of a murder mystery. Fortunately, it’s much more fun than it is complicated.
What’s interesting is that See How They Run is based on real life too; some of the characters in the film were actual actors and writers in 1950s England (including Shirley Henderson as Agatha Christie). There was also an Oscar-winning film producer back in the 50s, John Woolf, who optioned the rights to a film adaptation of “The Mousetrap”, with the clause that he couldn’t begin production of the movie until six months after the play closed. Almost 70 years later, The Mousetrap remains a success on stage, one of the longest-running plays in history. Sorry, Mr. Woolf.
I quite enjoyed See How They Run and in particular enjoyed the chemistry between overeager neophyte detective Stalker (Ronan) and world-weary Inspector Stoppard (Rockwell). Both excellent actors, they clearly enjoyed their roles and the banter between them featured a lot of witty dialog and amusing revelations. A special shout-out to David Oyelowo as the self-important writer Mervyn Cocker-Norris too, the embodiment of everything we suspect about writers from that era. Go see it and try to match wits with the two detective inspectors as the story unfolds. Recommended.