See How They Run: A Fun Throwback Whose Stars Outshine It
Hollywood, it seems, is experiencing a return to its classical roots, at least on some level. In recent years, we’ve seen musicals like ‘La La Land’ and ‘West Side Story’ eschew some modern sensibilities for a more classic feel; ‘Jungle Cruise,’ minus some modern CGI, felt like a movie that was plucked from a long-gone era; and classic whodunits like ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘Death on the Nile’ have made a comeback.
The latest entry down this nostalgia-driven path is director Tom George’s ‘See How They Run.’
Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) in ‘See How They Run.’ (© 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PROPERTY OF SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES.)
Taking place in 1953 London, ‘See How They Run’ starts off with the cast, crew and audience celebrating the 100th performance of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap.’ Hollywood producer Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), who also narrates the film’s earliest moments, is doing everything he can to convince the powers that be behind the production to let him bring the play to the big screen.
Soon, however, the abrasive, drunken American who was never afraid to offend and step on toes, ends up murdered and in the case file of the overeager and wet behind the ears Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) and her grizzled, jaded mentor, Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell).
As the story unfolds, we’re unsurprisingly fed multiple twists, turns and accusations before ultimately, in classic whodunit fashion, finding our culprit.
The thing I appreciate most about ‘See How They Run’ is the simplicity of the story and how it’s presented. George doesn’t set out to recreate the wheel but allowing the film’s understated and nostalgic feel to shine through, often leaning into but not breaking the fourth wall, and allowing his stars to shine.
And shine they do.
Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) and Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) in ‘See How They Run.’ (© 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PROPERTY OF SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES.)
Rockwell has proven his versatility over the years by seamlessly bouncing from comedy to drama to thriller to action/sci-fi and back. Beyond said versatility, Rockwell is often a scene stealer, and ‘See How They Run’ is no different. This time, however, it has just as much to do with his frequent scene partner as it does his own abilities. In a relatively short time, Ronan has proven herself an incredible actor, garnering four Academy Award nominations by the age of 26. Those roles, generally, have been more serious fare, with 2017’s ‘Lady Bird’ coming the closest to allowing her to show off her comedic chops. This time, however, she’s given full reign to show just how funny she is and how far her range extends. The film is more playful than it is slapstick, but the Ronan-Rockwell pairing is painfully funny at times, either through their banter or simply the oil and water nature of their characters.
Supporting the duo is the aforementioned Brody, who plays the stereotypical Hollywood sleezeball to perfection; David Oyelowo, who plays the persnickety playwright Mervyn Cocker-Norris to a T; and Shirley Henderson, who brings Agatha Christie to life in a way I’ve never seen before (to be fair, the only time I recall seeing her played by an actor was on one episode of ‘Doctor Who’).
If anything, the supporting cast isn’t utilized enough, which is easy to understand when your headliners are as good as they are.
The one drawback of the movie, and it is a pretty big one, is that because of the light, playful air around it, it didn’t really draw me in and make me care about the outcome or the criminal’s reasons for committing the crime. I was content to simply watch talented actors ply their craft in a fun movie that I’m unlikely to revisit any time soon, due to feeling no real connection to it. Given the performances and how excited I was for this one, I was more than a little disappointed when the credits ran.
If you’re a fan of the classic murder mystery, or you simply enjoy watching fun performances by excellent actors, then ‘See How They Run’ is probably right up your alley. If, however, you want something with a little more intrigue, you may want to look elsewhere.
★★★ of ★★★★★