See How They Run
“It’s a whodunit, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But The Limeys? They just eat it up. Leo (Adrian Brody)
Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes has prepared us for detective stories with restraint and wit, the latter in short supply but all the better because it’s Brit underplaying. Sam Rockwell’s Inspector Stoppard in the spoofy See How They Run is no Sherlock, but he is delightfully insouciant and not without smarts as he pursues a killer at the production of London’s The Mousetrap in 1953 in the West End. Playwright Tom Stoppard, who penned a one-act play called The Real Inspector Hound, is a darling of critics because his play in about critics who are drawn into a production they are also reviewing.
To add tension, Agatha Christie demanded that no film be made while the play was still running. She also attested to the fact that she based it on a real murder. Subsequently, the play has become the longest-running play in history. Ripe for real murder, I’d say.
The satire of British whodunits is complete with several candidates for murderer as they mount a production every day of Agatha Christie’s iconic Mousetrap. Although it’s still fun to try to guess the culprit, in this film it is just as rewarding to enjoy the plummy playing of actors who know their Brit imitations well.
Notwithstanding Rockwell’s achievement as an American playing a clueless Brit inspector, Saoirse Ronan’s Constable Stalker is a sharp young sleuth with just enough daft to bring a chuckle or two to the august investigation. She provides clues while she physically moves the action where the Inspector can barely move.
As the resolution comes near, the plot has action more like Keystone Cops than even goofy Scotland Yard officers. See How They Run has good-old-fashioned heart, a comedy with enough clues and surprises to capture the cynical hearted. It’s pretty good fun:
“Fleet Street is all over this like hot jam on a Devonshire scone!”
See How They Run
Director: Tom George
Screenplay: Mark Chappell (Bliss)
Cast: Saoirse Ronan (Hannah), Sam Rockwell (Vice)
Run Time: 1h 38m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at JohnDeSando52@gmail.com