See How They Run
Sep 10, 2022
Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, David Oyelowo, Reece Shearsmith, Ruth Wilson
Just occasionally a film reminds us what Saturday night at the movies used to be about; pure entertainment that sends the punters home with a smile on their faces. This new film by Tom George comfortably moves into 'popcorn movie' territory and we should all be grateful for it. The action lands gently in London during the early 1950s. Agatha Christie's Mousetrap has just completed its 100th show in the West End. It looks set for a healthy run and a film version is in preparation when disaster strikes. Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) narrates his own demise as the cocksure American director who upsets too many people. His untimely death occurs during a party to mark the show's century. Like all good whodunits there are ample suspects with no end of means, motive and opportunity to do the evil deed.
There is camp scriptwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) who quarrels incessantly with Kopernick about the film's direction; and producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith) who is desperate to get the film made, but is hamstrung by contracts tied to the stage show. Meanwhile, slippery theatre producer Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson) wants everything quickly cleared up so the West End run can continue. Scotland Yard's finest are soon on the case. The world weary Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) is ably assisted by rookie WPC Stalker (Saoirse Ronan). They make an odd but strangely appealing couple. Stoppard wants a quiet life and a murder is the last thing he needs. In contrast Stalker is an eager puppy snapping around his heels. But will they get to the bottom of this particular mystery?
It's a cracking good yarn that stays faithful to the genre pioneered by Agatha Christie, but smartly includes elements of farce made famous by Ray Cooney. The essence of slapstick is never far away as novel use is made stage props. Writer Mark Chappell peppers the script with funny lines and appreciates the gentle humour that underpins Christie's work. Tom George captures London with a rich and evocative glow that rests easy on the eye. Elements of 'faction' come to the fore as Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim also feature as characters. They were in the original cast of the Mousetrap and give the film an essential reference point.
A superlative cast have a great time and work perfectly as an ensemble; they make the most of brilliantly executed set pieces that punctuate the script. See How They Run helps us escape to a different time and place; when the harsh realities of life could be parked outside the cinema and temporarily forgotten. I think we could use a film like this right now?