By Kathryn McDonald
A recent rise in interest surrounding true crime stories and unsolved mysteries has led to a revival of interest in mystery books, tv shows, and movies. From G. K. Chesterton’s “Father Brown” to A. C. Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes,” fans love seeing directors take a fresh cinematic approach to timeless classics.
As a new generation of mystery enthusiasts rediscover these timeless tales, Agatha Christie’s classic works have been revisited again and again. Most recently, “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile” garnered much interest and attracted many fans for a new interpretation of some of Christie’s most beloved stories.
“See How They Run” follows in the same vein of these revivals of old classics and transforms a stage production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap into the backdrop for a new murder mystery that will appeal to lovers of Christie’s work.
The setting is 1953, post-war England. Sets, costumes, and music each contribute so much to the texture and aesthetic of the film and create a high-class, West-End theater on the screen. The innovative film style even utilizes a comic book style split screen at times which gives the audience a chance to see the same scene from multiple angles all at once.
The movie opens with character introductions containing no small amount of dramatic irony. Our narrator begins by poking fun at the tired characters and plots that murder mysteries are known to use again and again. The beauty of these comments lies in the fact that the overused tropes are identified with honesty before then reviving the audience’s interest in said tropes.
After introductions have been made, the audience is handed off to the enthusiastic rookie and the jaded detective who are left to sort out the riddles and mysteries left by the death of Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody), identified by the narrator as the most unlikeable character.
Audiences will love the comic presence that Saoirse Ronan brings to the screen in her role as Constable Stalker. The chemistry between Inspector Stoppard (played by Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker drives the scenes in between investigations and contributes well-rounded characters to a fast-paced film.
The dry humor and constant puns demonstrate that the film does not take itself too seriously. In this way, it bridges the gap between the screen and the audience. New life is breathed into the old stories and typical characters that we expect to see in a British murder mystery. The innovation lies not in creating something new but in adapting something that is fundamental to film. The bumbling cop, the straight-faced butler, and the harsh commanding officer, each take on new dimensions as personalities emerge.
One of the best parts of the movie for fans of Christie’s work is the references to some of her most famous characters. The movie even includes a brief visit to Whitehaven Mansions, the set of Hercule Poirot’s flat in the TV adaptation of the Poirot stories, starring David Suchet.
And of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a British country home and an appearance by Agatha Christie herself, played by Shirley Henderson. It was interesting to see how directors and screenwriters incorporated Christie into the story at all, but it was refreshing to see how detailed their incorporation of her was, without the movie becoming entirely about Christie.
As the film comes to a close, the delightful ending takes several twists and turns before wrapping up the story in a way that gives a nod to Agatha Christie’s endings.
One of the best parts of the movie is the honesty with which the characters deal with the role of the macabre in art. Social advocacy is brought to the screen as characters remind each other that art is ultimately supposed to reveal, rather than pervert the truth. This is a great reminder of the place that any story should have in our own lives.
“See How They Run” is playing now in theaters
Kathryn McDonald is a senior Psychology major and writer for the Arts and Entertainment section of Cedars. You can probably catch her writing a letter to a friend in the library or drinking coffee from her favorite mug. When she is not at her desk studying, she is probably on her phone catching up with friends or reading her favorite volumes of American poetry.