Despite the lack of innovation, See How They Run manages to be an engaging murder mystery. It openly pokes fun at its own tropes and doesn’t back down when it comes to irony. Knowing this, it’s not surprising to hear that most of the case takes place in a theatre where the anniversary of a popular “whodunit” play is being celebrated.
The story follows jaded inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and enthusiastic rookie constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), as they try to unravel the mystery behind the murder of director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody). The comical duo delves into the glamorous underworld of theatre, which turns out to be more twisted than it originally seems. Schemes, lies, betrayal and now even murder; See How They Run has you second guessing yourself over who you can trust, while also making you laugh as it purposefully ridicules the genre’s cliches.
This is a spoiler-free review.
See How They Run is now playing in theatres.
Story – Classical Detective as We Know It
See How They Run’s plot is very simple to describe, as it follows the traditions of every classical whodunit. Someone gets killed, after which the detectives interview a range of suspects, unravel twists, and then confront the murderer. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the main appeal of these films is often the suspense of finding out who is behind the murder. This is something the movie does well.
Another thing this film does well is the way in which it sets up the final confrontation. Through the course of the story you’re fed multiple clues, helping you solve the case. It ensures the audience is able to think alongside Stoppard and Stalker, instead of throwing a curveball you can’t see coming. That doesn’t mean the ending is predictable though. Personally, I found it amusing. I slapped my forehead and went “Of course!!” as I could have seen it coming.
Characters & Performances – Lovably Irritating
One of the strongest points of See How They Run is the way it portrays its main characters. It’s easy for detective stories to set aside the details of characters in exchange for stereotypes. Fortunately, neither of the main characters are truly a walking stereotype, and both of them come across as believable. You’ll either fall in love with them or find them extremely annoying, depending on your preferences.
Something about the way Ronan plays constable Stalker makes her incredibly lovable. From her naivety to the way she is so determined to help, you can’t help but root for her while also laughing about the mistakes she makes. Her partner, the burnt out inspector Stoppard, seems to be her polar opposite. He often rolls his eyes at her naivety, making them a hilarious duo as they work together as a team. That said, if you’re similar to detective Stoppard and don’t like the overly energetic rookie type, you’ll probably get sick of her quick.
Besides our main characters we have an extensive range of characters that all feel unique. I would say they do get overshadowed by the performances of Rockwell and Ronan, but everyone portrays their characters in a believable way besides the occasional joke. In comparison to our main detectives the other characters can come across as flat, often able to be described in one or two words.
Editing & Pacing – Carefully Interesting
See How They Run is a true murder mystery at heart in every way you look at it. It’s as if it was ripped straight from the pages of a detective novel with some added humour. The movie shows this off even in the type of editing it uses.
During certain moments of the film they would have two shots next to each other, which was interesting and engaging. It wasn’t overwhelming and made some scenes extra exciting as it shows a scene play out from different perspectives. Unfortunately, it’s as if the movie was scared to make more use of these shots, as they were few and far between which was disappointing.
The film is relatively short with a runtime of 1 hour and 38 minutes. This doesn’t leave any room for the plot to drag on, which it fortunately doesn’t. Despite the film mocking its own pacing with a flashback joke, I thought it was fine.
Cinematography & Sound – 1950s London Oozes From the Screen
Everything in this movie screams 1950s Wes Anderson London. From the great-looking backdrops to the score and the appropriate clothing, it’s all very nice. There’s not a lot of scenes I would describe as eye candy, although that’s arguably not what you’d expect from a movie of this genre anyways.
There’s one shot at the start of the movie in particular that caught my eye. It reminded me of older films. The detective smoking a cigar in the rain, donning a long coat accompanied with a matching hat, while a neon sign flickers in the distance. This movie catches a certain vibe that really makes you feel as if you’re a part of the 50s.
It also uses the lack of sound to emphasise certain situations, which works well. Draw out an embarrassing situation and make the audience anticipate what will happen next in pure silence, and all of a sudden it feels double as awkward.