Sitting in between the winking qualities of Rian Johnson's Knives Out and the loving period detail of Kenneth Branagh's Death on the Nile, See How They Run is a clever and fun mix of meta-humor and earnest mystery. Add a bit of Wes Anderson aesthetic and you get a crowd-pleasing film. The film's two leads, Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell charm their way through this somewhat rocky but ultimately pleasing whodunnit.
Breazy might be the best way to sum up the pleasures of See How They Run. It isn't fussy about its central mystery, focusing a bit more on the chemistry of its cast. With Agatha Christie an actual character in the film, it openly acknowledges the legacy it builds upon, swapping out a French detective with a rookie and a burned-out police officer. While following the rules of the genre: a murder, a colorful arrangement of suspects, and a big reveal, the film also calls attention to the ways in which it tries to do something new. However, it rarely breaks new ground and is at its best when it focuses on being a familiar but engaging mystery.
The dead body in this case is a film director (Adrian Brody) who is set to direct the film adaptation of a wildly popular play The Mousetrap, written by Christie. Inspector Stoppard (Rockwell) is assigned rookie constable Stalker (Ronan) to assist with the case. The assorted suspects include the play's cast: Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) and Sheila Sim (Peral Chanda). Who would have wanted the director dead? Is it the playwright who saw too many changes happening to his script? Is it the producer of the play who doesn't want its epic run to end?
Director Tom George builds a strong cast here of well-written characters. He turns them loose and lets them chew up the scenery. This plays wonderfully against the over-eager Ronan and the deadpan Rockwell characters. While the entire cast here is good, it is Ronan who stands out. She plays Stalker earnestly. Her naivety is charming when it could be grating. Her comic timing is pitch-perfect, playing off Rockwell very well. She ultimately becomes the central character in this crowded film and I don't know that the screenplay intended that. I think credit is due to her for creating such a standout character.
See How They Run doesn't succeed in every aspect. The Wes Anderson aesthetic feels borrowed rather than used with purpose. Its meta-references to murder mysteries don't come to fruition in actual variations on the murder mystery formula. However, it has a sense of giddy fun that works throughout its brief running time. The film is full of small pleasures and is enough to make this worth your time.