It’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the Siren’s song of Sam Rockwell. Even if the film ends up a disappointment, he usually delivers. Now we have the chance to see how he fares in 1953 London in with See How They Run . Oh, and it’s a murder mystery too. They’re coming back!
See How They Run cleverly functions as a partial takedown of the murder mystery/Agatha Christie formula. Immediately, we’re given a narration (from self-described “big shot Hollywood director Leo Köpernick, played by Adrien Brody) that pokes fun at the genre: specifically “whodunits.” Very quickly we’re introduced to an inspector (Rockwell) and his young film-loving constable partner (Saoirse Ronan). Their team anchors the story with their investigation of the grisly set of killings, which deal with members of a meta-inspired murder mystery play.
See How They Run plays out in reverence to the source material of Christie, while throwing in its own barbs and jabs, and recreating the events before the murder as our duo survey various crime scenes and points of interest. Throughout, Rockwell’s quiet demeanour plays well off of Ronan’s astuteness and excitement. Ronan never really over plays her hand, and her quirks are both believable and fun to watch. It’s endearing how very quickly he starts to acclimate with her way of doing things and they become a team without much fuss (they still bump heads, but not in a grating way).
“At a breezy hour and thirty-eight minutes, See How They Run manages to sidestep many of the very tropes they make fun of.”
The film gives the pair enough quirks to really ingratiate themselves with the audience, especially in the tight running time it has to work with. Everyone else, however, isn’t left with as much to do. I get that murder mysteries, especially with ensemble casts, can be risky (even with the success of Knives Out), but this could have shined as a miniseries: where we get more time to absorb this world and the people in it.
The whole meta-commentary is grating at times. At one point a character says “no…no flashbacks…they’re crass, lazy, and interrupt the flow of the story.” Cue a See How They Run flashback. It’s cute at the beginning when Brody does it to juxtapose his character’s personal feelings of how trite the genre is, but it also becomes a crutch for cheap laughs and a substitute for personality.
At a breezy hour and thirty-eight minutes, See How They Run manages to sidestep many of the very tropes they make fun of. There’s some slapstick and dry humour that will delight those of you out there who enjoy subversive mystery flicks, but the mystery itself isn’t going to garner much excitement.