review – See How They Run

Famous mystery writer Agatha Christie wrote a murder mystery play called “The Mousetrap” which opened in London’s West End in 1952 and is STILL PLAYING IN THE SAME THEATER TODAY.  It holds the world record as the longest continuously running play.  It opened in 1952 and ran until March 2020 when it closed due to COVID.  It then re-opened in May 2021.  If you don’t count when it was closed due to the pandemic, it’s been playing in the same theater for 70 YEARS.  Over 28,000 performances.  

When the play first started there was a rule in the contract that said that no film adaption can be produced until the stage production has been closed for at least six months.  So, instead of making “The Mousetrap” movie, “See How They Run” is about “The Mousetrap” play.  

The movie is set in London on the night of the plays 100th performance where film director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody – who also narrates parts of the movie via voiceover), who is in town working on a movie version of the play, gets killed backstage by a masked killer.  Scotland Yard sends the weary and sometimes drunk Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell – who has a British accent that comes and goes) and the eager and naïve rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) to investigate. 

The suspects include the screenwriter for the movie – Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) – who had argued with the director over the movie screenplay, the movie producer – John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith) – who was blackmailed by the director into getting a him a room at the posh Savoy hotel, and the lead of the play – “Dickie” Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) – who got into a fight with the director right before the murder because the director was flirting with his wife – Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda).  Before the investigation concludes there will be several people accused (mostly by rookie Constable Stalker), a few more people killed (including one accidentally), and most of the cast ends up visiting the home of Agatha Christie (Shirley Henderson).

I really enjoyed how accurate the movie tries to be.  From what I understand, they filmed the movie in the actual theater where the play is still performed since it was closed due to the pandemic.  The leads of the play in the movie – Richard “Dickie” Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim – were the leads in the play when it originally opened in 1952.  The people arriving at Agatha Christies home are welcomed in by Max Mallowan (Lucian Msamati) who in real life was Agatha Christies second husband.

Mark Chappell does a pretty good job writing his first movie screenplay (he previously wrote a few TV series in the UK).  There are some very funny lines – Writer as he’s walking away: I will not stand here and be insulted.”  Director: “I guess he’ll stand over there and be insulted” – but there are also some not so funny lines. 

Constable Stalker writes everything down in her notebook the same way the writers assistant did in last years “Being the Ricardos”.  In the previous movie, when someone mentions that you don’t need to write everything down, the woman writes that down.  That is a lot funnier than in this movie where she has a drawn-out explanation that concludes “…once we figure out what’s important, we’ll know I wrote it down.

Unfortunately, Tom George doesn’t do a good job directing his first movie (he also previously directed a few TV series in the UK).  His directing is very uneven, and it looks like he’s trying to copy scenes from other movies like the Coen brothers “Raising Arizona” and “Barton Fink” or Wes Andersons “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (which Adrien Brody and Saoirse Ronan were also in).  In some scenes you need to watch carefully to find the humor. 

For example: when Leo Köpernick tries to stop the killer by throwing a vase, but the vase is a harmless breakaway prop that’s used in the play.  The directing and editing don’t even pause so you can laugh at that joke.  Also, some of the scenes in the movie that should have suspense or tension don’t because of the quick cuts/different shots.

Overall, if you’re looking for a murder mystery, this is not the movie you should see.  However, if you’re looking for a farce of the classic Agatha Christie mysteries, this movie is pretty funny.  Personally, it makes me want to see the play “The Mousetrap”, which just might be made into a movie soon since the play was closed for 6 months in 2020 due to the pandemic.

I give it 6 out of 10 stars.