Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running play. It’s been staged in London since 1952 and if it weren’t for a pesky covid interruption, it would be clocking up 70 years of continuous performances this month.
Now, if you already know that, then a joke about The Mousetrap’s seemingly endless run after 100 performances in 1953 is going to land much harder.
Or you may be able to appreciate that one of See How They Run’s characters is named Inspector Stoppard, a reference to Tom Stoppard and his The Mousetrap parody, The Real Inspector Hound.
The amusing and droll murder mystery See How They Run is all about those little easter eggs, a raft of scattered clues for lovers of the genre to notice and coo over. How clever, you’ll exclaim (silently), because, let’s face it, fan service can be delightful.
For Christie and golden age mystery fans, See How They Run’s derivative nature is its appeal. The film isn’t doing anything new but it’s not trying to, the whole point is to colour within the same lines, but maybe use a few different shades.
As to be expected, See How They Run opens with a murder, that of brash American filmmaker Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), who tells us in voiceover that of course the most unlikeable character is the one to be killed.
He’s bludgeoned in the wardrobe department with his body moved onstage for the full dramatic effect of a bloody tableau.
Two police officers, the peachy keen WPC Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) and the weary Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), are on the case, uncovering a cavalcade of overheard secrets, schemes and betrayals – and motives.
Everyone is a suspect or a potential victim, including big-noting playwright Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo, whose drawn-out, Vincent Price-esque pronunciation of “macabre” tickles one pink), the leading man Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), the philandering producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith), his wife Edana (Sian Clifford) and imperious star Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson).
You know the murderer is among this closed set, a name already pencilled in WPC Stalker’s little red notebook – any real deviation would be sacrilegious.
Where See How They Run is a little more playful is director Tom George and writer Mark Chappell’s injection of style and farce.
The film uses ample physical comedy to add a little fun while some of the camera techniques such as symmetrical shots, fast editing and staged framing, evokes Wes Anderson’s form. The inclusion of frequent Anderson players Ronan and Brody adds to that impression.
See How They Run isn’t as sharp as Knives Out nor as absurdly over-the-top as Clue, but it knows where it’s supposed to romp – be smart but not too smug, be knowing but not too philosophical, be reverent but not too stale.
It’s a well-paced, intriguing and mischievous set-piece that will enchant Christie fans without challenging the grand dame of mystery’s reign.
See How They Run is in cinemas now
Originally published as See How They Run an amusing and droll Agatha Christie-adjacent farce