See How They Run Review: The playful Agatha Christie hoopla is as cute and light as a fondant fantasy

Dir: Tom George. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, David Oyelowo. 12A, 98 minutes.

Could the all-star crime thriller finally save us from the monotony of superheroes? That’s the tantalizing promise embedded in it See how they run, which may feel as cynically constructed as any of Marvel’s corporate-minded affairs, but as sweet and easy to set as a fondant fantasy. It’s equal parts mixture of Rian Johnson’s lopsided, confident demeanor knife out and the aristocratic romance of Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie adaptations. And as if his quest for widespread sympathy wasn’t obvious enough, the film is steeped in the Wes Anderson aesthetic — obsessive symmetry, vibrant color palettes, French New Wave-inspired camera tricks. One also has to wonder if the presence of two of his regulars – Saoirse Ronan and Adrien Brody – means they weren’t maliciously duped into signing their contracts themselves. Are you aware that this is actually not a sequel to The French Dispatch?

But somehow – and almost unexpectedly – See how they run is a real treat. If the appeal of the Marvel Universe can be boiled down to a sense of familiarity and stability in troubled times, then there’s not much that separates it from the legacy of Christie and her many successors. Both are rooted in the certainty that justice can be restored and chaos tamed. Christie wrote in the shadow of war, and the crime genre has always waxed and waned in step with our collective sense of security. See how they run follows all the strict codes of the genre: a corpse and a detective (or two); a mixed bag of suspects; Answers in proper monologue form.

In this case, the deceased is discovered on a prop couch center stage at the Ambassadors Theater in London’s West End, where Christie’s The Mousetrap has just completed its 100th performance. The film mentions the real-life clause in the contract that prevents a film adaptation from being made until after the show is over – the big joke of the whole thing is that The Mousetrap is now the longest-running play in the world still active at St. Martin’s next door (minus its brief, COVID-related closure). Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and rookie constable Stalker (Ronan) are on the case. The loot from would-be assassins abounds as some of them are included The Mousetrap‘s original cast, Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) and Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda).

See how they run marks the directorial debut of Tom George, the man behind all three seasons of the BBC mockumentary This country. He’s adopted the same ethos here – give a strong cast a well-defined set of characters and let them run wild (series stars Charlie Cooper and Paul Chahidi also make an appearance). It’s the kind of ensemble film that plays out like a tennis match, with David Oyelowo’s flashy screenwriter one-liner-pelting Sian Clifford’s demure producer one-liner-pelting Dickinson’s luvvie-esque Attenborough. However, Ronan ultimately prevails. She plays Stalker’s eager naivete with the same gentle slapstick quality as a baby deer wiggling on its legs for the first time.

As a pure elevator pitch See how they run Admittedly, it comes across as a bit banal. Copying Wes Anderson without also indulging in his deep melancholy makes no better tribute than an Instagram post complete with a shoulder bag and a beret. But the film is so ambitious in its ambitions – in its sense of dizzying, well-intentioned fun – that it feels a little pointless to despise its more superficial decisions.

The same could easily be said of all his knowing winks at the camera. Brody’s Leo Kopernick, a film director who serves as the story’s narrator, introduces the story with a broad gutting of the crime genre: “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” But there’s no hint of complacency in this Gambit. Mark Chappell’s screenplay playfully indulges in the same inventions it parodies. Oyelowo’s character laments flashback sequences in films as “the last resort of a dying fantasy” – in the middle of a flashback. When it comes to See how they runspotting the doll’s threads is a big part of the fun.

See How They Run hits theaters September 9th See How They Run Review: The playful Agatha Christie hoopla is as cute and light as a fondant fantasy


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