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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

See How They Run: Review

See How They Run Synopsis: In 1950s London, plans for a movie version of a smash-hit play abruptly halt after a pivotal crew member is murdered. When a world-weary inspector (Sam Rockwell) and an eager rookie constable (Saoirse Ronan) take on the case, they find themselves thrown into a puzzling whodunit.

A washed-up detective and his eager constable must solve a murder case involving the film adaptation of a famed Agatha Christie work in See How They Run. This latest ode to old-school whodunits continues a refreshing revival of the mystery genre. With the crowdpleasing success of Murder on the Orient Express, Only Murders in the Building, and Knives Out inspiring their own franchises, mystery narratives’ cunning intellect and evolving gamesmanship boast a newfound appeal with modern viewers.

Part old-school throwback, part modern reinterpretation, See How They Run uncorks the famed traditions of mystery films in some intriguing lights. I credit director Tom George and screenwriter Mark Chappell for taking a sincere risk with a film that reckons with mysteries and their inherent appeals. Unfortunately, their balance of wit and intrigue ultimately culminates in a so-so yarn for viewers to unravel.

My issues aside, I do think See How They Run will find a supportive audience from its evident affection for whodunits and their storied roots. George and cinematographer Jamie Ramsay encapsulate the throwback aesthetics of 50’s culture with a jazzy sense of style and panache. The recreation of the era never feels stiff as the duo imbues precise framing and vivid lighting choices in every shot.

The all-star ensemble also enriches their roles through their sheer personability. Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan make for a dynamic comedic pair as the central detective duo, while eccentric performances from Adrian Brody, David Oyelowo, and Ruth Wilson meld right into the film’s tonal frequency. At its best, the film is a cheeky tribute to Christie’s work – an effort lined with its own sense of meta introspections about the genre’s time-honored appeals.

I wouldn’t go as far as to call See How They Run a subpar film – I would just argue that the promising pieces do not equal a satisfying whole. Mark Chappell’s adoration for the genre ultimately becomes a weakness as the film becomes too embedded in the allures of its genre forefathers. Christie fans will likely enjoy several winks to the audiences, but the nods don’t mean much for those not indoctrinated in her distinct oeuvre. It’s also not enough to make effective punchlines by simply pointing elements out as contrived – there needs to be more introspection to make these bits more than a self-satisfying homage.

Ultimately, See How They Run succumbs to its chase for cleverness. The film gets so caught up in attempts at self-awareness to the detriment of its narrative structure. Despite working with a talented cast, Chappell struggles to define his characters as anything more than familiar stereotypes. The central mystery is also much more predictable than viewers may expect, with a slew of red herrings and overly-cutesy twists still not offering genuine surprises.

I admire what See How They Run vies to achieve, but the final product never lives up to the creative team’s aspirations.

See How They Run opens in theaters nationwide on September 16.


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