Following the murder of a cocky American film director (Adrien Brody), two police officers - world-weary Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and eager Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) - are dispatched to the scene of the crime - which just so happens to be the original stage production of Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap'. As Stoppard and Stalker investigate the cast and crew of the production (Rita Wilson, David Oyelowo, Harris Dickinson, Reece Shearsmith, Sian Clifford), they find themselves in a murder mystery worthy of Agatha Christie herself...
Since the unbridled success of 'Knives Out', the murder mystery genre has undergone a resurgence of interest. Agatha Christie is now, in our time, synonymous with WAG-atha Christie. Camp classic 'Clue' is now in the lexicon of pop culture and memery. 'The Mousetrap' continues to draw audiences to its stage productions around the world. Everybody loves 'Columbo'. Into this warm atmosphere comes 'See How They Run', which bypasses the circuitous route of other parodies and efforts, and dives straight into Agatha Christie by placing 'The Mousetrap' front and centre in the story.
From the get-go, 'See How They Run' is operating on a much different level to 'Knives Out', in that it's far less smug but conversely feels more self-aware. Characters directly address the silliness of a situation, snap about story shortcuts, and generally needle the genre in a way that only someone who loves it truly can. If anything, 'See How They Run' has more in common with something like 'Galaxy Quest', the oft-underrated sci-fi parody that also featured Sam Rockwell. They're both cracking jokes about an established concept and genre, but also engaging with it in a forthright way that lets it stand alongside other efforts in that space (no pun intended).
Rockwell is of course a veteran comedic performer and is smartly cast alongside Saoirse Ronan, very much a novice in the field but completely eager to have a go and try it on. Ronan takes the whole thing like a duck to water; her over-achieving, annoyingly eager policewoman bouncing off Rockwell's jaded detective throughout the entire movie. Adrien Brody plays the murder victim with delightful glee, while the suspect is of equal status with him. David Oyelowo in particular steals the show as the high camp writer, while Harris Dickinson gives good innings as Darling Dickie Attenborough himself.
It's to the credit of director Tom George and writer Mark Chapell that the whole thing just skips along at a brisk pace, with the jokes and set pieces firing off the screen and a cast more than game for a laugh with it. Ronan and Rockwell's pairing just makes the script sing, and you get the sense that both of them truly enjoyed their working relationship together. If there's a let-down with 'See How They Run', it's in the final act where the whole thing becomes wobbly and the climax and reveal isn't nearly as satisfying as everything leading up to it. Still, everything else works a charm - and the delightfully playful tone of it keeps things nice and frothy.