Whodunits are always jolly and See How They Run is a delightfully meta tribute to the queen of crime, Dame Agatha Christie. The film opens in 1953 London at a glittering party celebrating the 100th show of Christie’s play, The Mousetrap.
See How They Run
A philistine Hollywood director, Leo Köpernick (a top notch Adrien Brody), who wants to adapt the play into a film, disparagingly talks of the conventions of a whodunit and is promptly killed for his pains. Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) are put on the case.
Just as Köpernick said, the least likeable character is killed and there is no dearth of suspects. We realise that Köpernick had made improper advances at the leading lady, Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda), which had her husband and lead actor Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) attacking him. The sleazy director was blackmailing producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith). There is also a mysterious, plain lady with glasses, who visits Köpernick with a child. Köpernick’s violent quarrel with the pretentious playwright Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) on the ending of the play has to be considered as well.
The producer of the play, Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson), has optioned the film rights to Woolf, under a contract that the film cannot be made until six months after the play’s run. The usher, Dennis (Charlie Cooper), offers a vague description of someone in a trench coat and hat acting “suspiciously”.
Like in all Christie whodunits, or at least adaptations, See How They Run too ends with the suspects gathered in an isolated country manor — Agatha Christie’s (Shirley Henderson) no less.
Whodunit fans have much to enjoy in the film, from the inspector troubled by an old war wound to throwaways like the names of the dentists, Henry Morley and Norman Gale, who are dentists in the Christie novels, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe and Death in the Air. There is also mention of Stymphalean birds, which is a short story by Christie, and a character saying “Belgian not French”, referencing Christie’s egg-headed detective, Hercule Poirot.
Even the name Stoppard is a nod at playwright Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, a one-act play featuring two theatre critics who get involved in a country house murder, which mirrors a play being staged there. The title of course is from the nursery rhyme, ‘Three Blind Mice’, and the title of radio play and short story The Mousetrap is based on.
Even for those who are not whodunit or Christie nerds, See How They Run offers a well-mounted, sparkling murder-mystery supported by a glorious cast and peppered with fun ripostes.
See How They Run is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.