“Well, now that you’ve seen our film you are an accomplice to murder. And so we ask you to remember that it’s very much within your interests not to tell a soul outside of this theater who dunit.”
It’s with a certain cheekiness that See How They Run, the meta-murder mystery from director Tom George’s (Defending the Guilty), tells its story. A murder involves the cast of a murder mystery place, the narrative involves a great deal of insider baseball with making movies, the film took inspiration from several real-world sources which themselves took inspiration from other real-world sources, and, of course, the victim is the narrator. With so many layers upon layers, one could get lost in the weeds of everything the script from Mark Chappell (The Rack Pack) seeks to accomplish; yet, through clever editing and a game cast, See How They Run manages to pull it all off. After a run in theaters, George’s murder mystery comes home on digital-only, offering a 25-minute featurette to make up for the lack of physical format.
If you’d like to learn about See How They Run in a spoiler-free context, head over the initial theatrical release review. Moving forward, the movie’s mysteries are more likely to be revealed.
London, 1953: Post curtain drop, on the stage of the Old Vic where an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s (Shirley Henderson) The Mousetrap is continuing a legendary run, the body of American director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) is found. With everyone else busy on a larger priority case, Commissioner Harrold Scott (Tim Key) tasks Scotland Yard officers Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) to quickly discover the truth, bring the killer to justice, and re-start the play. But the more these skilled investigators learn about the suspects, the more complicated things become.
Sometimes all a movie needs to be is an escape. Who better to escape with than Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan as they try to solve a murder and possibly work through their own b.s.? The film makes solid use of the era — busying up the whole of Scotland Yard with the John Christie serial killings, making both Stoppard and Stalker impacted by World War II, the very real locking of a film script from being made due to the success of a play — enabling the film proper to make sense within the rules it sets. This creates a solid foundation for the more ridiculous nature that creates comedy with pathos. Personally, the fact that our narrator is the victim, while done before, works here because the film itself, from start to finish, makes sure the audience is aware that everything is a show. If you didn’t get it from the narrator, then you get it from Stoppard himself at the end of the film when he recites the final line of The Mousetrap to the audience. (Sadly, I couldn’t find any confirmation if Stoppard gets his name from famed playwright Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (play and film); Shakespeare in Love), but I suspect this is an intentional naming.) I love that in an argument between Kopernick and playwright Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) involving Mervyn’s disdain of flashbacks, we get one. I love that the scene leading up to Mervyn’s death is shot in such a way that, if it were executed on a stage not the silver screen, the characters would be running in and out of rooms like an episode of Scooby-Doo. I love that the final confrontation of the film proper goes down almost entirely as depicted, in a flashback, by Kopernick in his version of what the film adaptation of The Mousetrap would entail. The film tells on itself from the start and, yet, an audience willing to go along for the ride, is likely to miss all the tell-tale signs because they’re having so much fun.
If you enjoyed the film or just had fun watching the cast at work, the 25-minute “Behind the Curtain” featurette will only enhance it. In between behind-the-scenes on-set footage, you’ll get interviews from members of the cast and crew to get their take on a very complicated production. According to George, the film was picked up right when the first COVID-19 lockdown occurred, but rather than shut it down, they just used it as an opportunity to go into prep on casting and tightening the script. Additionally, because of the second shutdown, home audiences learn that the production itself helped to support local businesses, as well as established venues like the Old Vic and the Savoy hotel, as no one was allowed in them. So not only did they get more access in spaces that might have been more restrictive before, but they were able to spread a little fun and excitement in the process. Much like the film deals in dower material made lighter by smart performances and clever editing, the featurette highlights how the shooting of the film offered just a bit of light in a dark period for many (cast, included). As someone who really enjoyed the meta approach to the film, one portion that was fun to watch is the tidbits provided by production designer Amanda McArthur (How to Build a Girl) and set decorator Celia De La Hey (How to Build a Girl) who not only confirm the purposefulness of decorating Christie’s house in the same manner as The Mousetrap’s stage, but other little things even the most observant audience member might miss. The featurette doesn’t exactly get into the weeds of things, but learning or confirming several things initial release audiences may have noticed is quite fun, as are the additional portions covering aspects of the various real-world connections.
Unabashedly, I dislike that See How They Run isn’t receiving a physical release. This is the second 20th Century Studios release (Barbarian is first, released on 10/25/22) that hit theaters that appears to only be receiving a digital drop. Granted, one of the producers on Barbarian has said that there’re plans for a physical release, but there’s been naught a word for See How They Run. Yes, the film is streaming on HBO Max and Hulu and, yes, the for-purchase edition does include an in-depth featurette on the making of the film, but there’s something troubling about the lack of physical support. Perhaps because everything in media is shifting to subscription-only availability and that physical media isn’t as hotly desirable (why sell something once when you can lease it every month?), but it feels like a terrible turn of events, especially when a film like See How They Run is just a dastardly good time, that being able to put it on when the whim strikes is somehow lessened when one also has to figure out whether or not they have access to one digital service versus another.
There are certainly elements of See How They Run that aren’t entirely winning (placing Brody as the womanizing, money- and power-hungry Kopernick doesn’t look great in a landscape where poor representation of Jews is fodder for the antisemetic, for example), but, if one is willing to look past these things, especially where not intentionally malicious, one is going to have a great time. And what is a murder mystery but an invitation to dip one’s toe in danger without being in harm’s way? If nothing else, watching this at home is far safer for you than for any of the blind mice.
See How They Run Special Features:
- See How They Run: Behind the Curtain (25:47)
Available on digital, HBO Max, and Hulu November 1st, 2022.
For more information, head to the official See How They Run website.