A brand new whodunnit has arrived in movie theaters. See How They Run follows a sleazy American movie director in the 1950s who wants to adapt a stage play into a film. However, when the director is murdered, Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and rookie Police Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) team up to investigate who killed him in a whodunnit inspired by the works of Agatha Christie. This mystery comedy offers brief spurts of entertainment but ultimately does not fully work as the brilliant and witty whodunnit that it aspires to be.
The film opens with the narration of Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) as he speaks about the formula of a whodunnit. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. The unlikeable character dies at the beginning, several people are stuck in one place, and a mysterious detective interrogates them all, making a few wrong turns before finding the killer in the end. This movie begins with a wonderful opening scene that depicts how a classic whodunnit starts, and for a second, you think this will be a story along the lines of Clue from the 80s and Death on the Nile from earlier this year.
However, See How They Run does not go down that route. There is a meta nature to this film that feels reminiscent of Scream. These movies are familiar with the genre’s tropes, and they decide to have fun with them. There is a lot of silliness revolving around the fact that the main suspects in the film are all whodunnit actors with leading roles in an Agatha Christie stage production. They are also aware of the tropes, and while the movie could have played into these funny ideas a little more, it’s very effective every time it happens.
There is a lot of style on the directing front. Tom George does an excellent job of using split screens throughout the picture; everything is helmed with lighthearted vibrancy. That being said, there is a crucial flaw at the center of this whodunnit. Movies in this genre are exciting because you have a group of characters confined to one location, creating a never-ending tension as you don’t know who is the killer and who is the next victim. See How They Run plays out differently, with a detective and a constable walking around to a few people in many locations and asking questions.
Since there are so many characters and motives, none are particularly memorable, and it’s not easy to get invested in the story. Furthermore, after the killer appears in the opening scene, they are absent for much of the movie. You don’t feel like the characters have any real sense of urgency because the killer doesn’t have a real presence. While whodunnits like Knives Out and Bodies Bodies Bodies have spent long periods without a killer, the storytelling in this movie is not strong enough to support a second act that does not feel very investing.
The second act is a weak point in the film and is not as consistent with the meta humor as it could be. The movie gets a lot of mileage by embracing the Agatha Christie comparisons, but it wouldn’t be your go-to whodunnit. There are entertaining moments, especially with Ronan’s excellent and subtle comedic performance, but See How They Run is never as strong as it could be. The ending payoff is as predictable as they come, and the movie’s lack of emotional weight ultimately works against it. In a year with several whodunnits, this one may, unfortunately, be the weakest.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” This score means that the positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.