See How They Run Review

PLOT: When an American director is murdered in 1952 England, a rumpled police inspector (Sam Rockwell) and his young partner (Saoirse Ronan) discover virtually everyone involved with the play he was hired to turn into a movie had reasons to want him dead.

REVIEW: See How They Run is what they used to call a “romp.” It’s a comic murder mystery that aims to do little more than leaving you with a smile on your face, and in that vein, it succeeds. It also adopts a pleasing meta tone, with writer Mark Chappel and director Tom George using Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap as a jumping-off point.

For those who don’t know, The Mousetrap is the longest-running play in history. It’s been performed more or less continuously (minus a brief stop for the pandemic) in the West End of London since 1952. The joke of the movie is that producers want to turn the play into a film but are locked into a contract where no feature version can be produced until the play closes, which Rockwell’s Inspector thinks might be grounds for murder.

See How They Run, Sam Rockwell

One wouldn’t expect Sam Rockwell to play the lead in a British murder mystery, but he proves to be a nicely off-kilter piece of casting. There’s a prejudice about Americans doing English accents (but not vice versa), and he makes his accent subtle in a way that feels authentic. I’d say he even sounds mid-Atlantic, a trick many American actors did back when they were more often called to play English roles.

Rockwell’s playing a rumpled, down-on-his-luck, sad sack character, changing from the usually boastful guys he plays. He’s a drunk who’s depressed over his wife leaving him and goes through the motions at work. He’s paired with his exact opposite, Saoirse Ronan, as a happy-go-lucky constable. She’s a war widow with two kids at home and wants to be promoted, but she has a problem. She’s too easily convinced of someone’s guilt and proves to be lacking in sleuthing skills. Thus she’s been given to Rockwell as a trainee.

Ronan is delightful in the role, with her radiating sweetness throughout, even as she pretty much accuses every principal character of the murder. She and Rockwell play well off each other, and the sense of growing respect between the two keeps the movie grounded.

See How They Run, Sam Rockwell, review

They’re surrounded by a vast cast of character actors, all of whom delight in chewing the scenery. Adrian Brody is hilarious as a proudly profane American who gets under everyone’s skin. At the same time, David Oyelowo seems to have the time of his life as an ultra-posh scriptwriter. One interesting thing about The Mousetrap is that Richard Attenborough (who kids will remember as John Hammond in Jurassic Park) was the original leading man. He’s a character here, played by Harris Dickinson.

See How They Run is relatively light entertainment. Still, it allows the talented cast to have a little fun, with many of them (especially Oyelowo and the great Ruth Wilson) not often able to display their comic chops. It adds to a fun little whodunit with some interesting historical context. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but does just what it set out to do – it makes you smile.

See How They Run, trailer, Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan

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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.