At the Movies with Alan Gekko: See How They Run “2022”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: See How They Run “2022”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Mystery Comedy/Stars: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, David Oyelowo, Charlie Cooper, Shirley Henderson, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Pearl Chanda, Paul Chahidi, Sian Clifford, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Lucian Msamati, Tim Key/Runtime: 98 minutes

I think it can be safely said that the iconic and legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie might just be the most wonderful whilst also being the most annoying element to ever be introduced to the world of whodunits. Oh don’t get me wrong: the numerous entries that are part of Christie’s bibliography have, ever since their various publications, all become regarded as definitive instruction manuals for the realm of crime fiction to follow to such an extent that the name Agatha Christie has now become tied at the hip to it. At the same time though dear reader, we are now at a point in the road where we all are, to varying degrees, very much aware of what to expect in a murder puzzler that is conjured up for us in the Agatha Christie mold. That being a murder most foul happens, a group of colorful individuals who could have committed the crime are assembled, and then a rather quirky detective goes to work to figure out who did it before other people are killed. Thus, and when looking at this distinct subgenre in the aftermath of the smash success of 2019’s Knives Out and with the life and times of the Dame of Mystery far in the rearview mirror, the question soon becomes how exactly does one make a novel whodunit slice of cinema? Well maybe bumping off Agatha Christie in one might do the trick. No I can safely say that in the new slice of cinema I am reviewing, 2022’s See How They Run, that is most certainly something which does NOT occur. With that being said though, there is no denying that this slice of cinema is one that is very much aware of the degree of tribute it owes her and as a result lovingly operates as the kind of cinematic adaptation to one of Christie’s stories that I am sure she would have enjoyed. Sure there are issues to be found here and there, but the work behind the camera is stylish to a t, and the cast of characters all delightfully quirky and colorful and portrayed by a truly game collection of players. Suffice it to say therefore that See How They Run is most definitely a fun little rainy-day kind of movie that you will have a blast time and time again trying to figure out before our cinematic pair of delightfully mismatched detectives.

The plot is as follows: Taking us all the way back in time to the West End district of jolly ol’ London in the 1950s, our story gets underway as we witness a highly regarded performance of a theatrical adaptation of Agatha Christie’s iconic story The Mousetrap is just wrapping up. Yet we soon see that this isn’t your ordinary performance. For one thing: this is the 100th performance of a play that most felt wouldn’t even make it to 25. For another, there is a distinct individual attending the afterparty. That being a man by the name of Leo Kopernick. A man who, among other attributes, is a sleazy and cynical big-time helmer in the land of movie magic who has no love whatsoever for remotely anything about this particular play to say nothing of anyone involved in it. You see dear reader, the reason Mr. Kopernick is there is because Hollywood has decided (in their typical fashion) to adapt this story for the big screen and Kopernick is the man they have assigned to direct the whole affair. However, as much as Kopernick’s sleazy, cynical, and just general off-putting attitude seems to be bringing the party down, we see things go from bad to worse when, whilst trying to clean his cake-stained tux (how and why he has cake stains on his tux I will leave for you to discover for yourself) someone unceremoniously bumps the man off courtesy of a sewing machine to the head. Suffice it to say that it isn’t long before the police are phoned and a pair of officers in the forms of the world-weary and slightly bumbling Inspector Stoppard and the perky and upbeat rookie he is reluctantly assigned to train by the name of Constable Stalker are dispatched to the scene of the crime. Thus, what winds up being afoot from there is your typical mystery narrative structure as we see our two mismatched detectives work together in order to try and figure out just why in the world the victim in question was bumped off to say nothing of who the guilty party behind this dastardly deed truly was….

Now, there is no denying that the work being done behind the camera is wonderfully lively and kinetic in equal measure. This starts with the work done by both the cinematography and editing departments in regards to their ingenious manner of building sequences that contain several distinct screens at the same time. As a result, we see that this enables this slice of cinema to go back and forth between different times and places in order to both showcase different perspectives as well as to show that some characters are located in more than one place at a time thus adding to the puzzling nature as well as keeping us continuously guessing as to just what is real and what is misdirection. We also see that this slice of cinema quite generously utilizes flashbacks during each possible suspect giving our dynamic detective duo their various alibis in order to show what they were engaged in at a particular time. Yet even in those, we see that the film is still able to conjure up a vibe of suspicion and dishonesty due to moments where what is being said and what is shown do not synch up like they should. As such, this way of approaching things does gift this slice of cinema with an engaging tempo even though the film does rely on this distinct style quite a bit. Ultimately though, the most significant choice behind the camera, and the one that will win you as a movie goer over or keep you at arm’s length, is how the narrative starts to become incredibly self-aware of the tropes that it is choosing to operate with. Indeed as the narrative moves along, we begin to observe that the play being conducted in this slice of cinema proper is weirdly starting to look like the investigation that our dynamic detective duo are investigating. On top of that, we see that the sets in the play start to look like locales our characters traverse and even aspects of the narrative and dialogue are also played out again. Heck before he bites it, the murder victim even gives us a description for an action beat for a cinematic adaptation of the play only for, surprise surprise, this action beat to eventually occur in the film proper. Indeed I have no doubt that there will be quite a few of you out there who find this style to be a bit too much for them to deal with. As for me, I can safely say that I managed to find this method to this distinct cinematic madness quite delightful. No how it is done herein is not handled quite on the level of a slice of cinema in a similar vein of the underrated 2002 Nic Cage film Adaptation, but at least it doesn’t take you out of the film entirely like other slices of cinema have been known to do. Ah well if nothing else, I’m sure that the helmsmanship on the part of Tom George as well as the work done by the film’s scribe Mark Chappell does a wonderful job of ensuring that all of the other elements are on point. Indeed, these pair of elements contribute just enough style and flair to help distinguish this slice of cinema from other movies similar to it. Finally, it also aids this slice of cinema behind the camera immensely that, in terms of design, this film is a genuine treat for the eyes. Indeed, the world of London in the aftermath of World War 2 is lovingly brought back to life and the locales therein all feel vivid in a way that if you love the filmography of one Wes Anderson, you might find yourself seeing certain styles that will feel lovingly familiar. Suffice it to say that if you are the kind of movie lover who wants your cinematic mystery to give off the vibe of being either gritty or realistic then this is by no means the film for you. However, if you are the kind of person who likes your mystery to be lively, vibrant, polished, and stylish to a t then you’re definitely in the right place.

Of course, as any halfway decent mystery writer or fan for that matter will tell you, the setting can be absolutely stunning, but if the cast of characters at play aren’t nearly as fleshed out your puzzle is unlikely to keep your audience interested for the duration. Fortunately, I can safely say that is one problem that this slice of cinema is not even remotely close to being saddled with. This starts with the detective duo at the heart of this mystery and they are both wonderfully portrayed by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan respectively. Indeed, his character of Inspector Stoppard might not be the kind of detective who acted goofy yet was incredibly intelligent like Columbo or a comedic bungler like Clouseau, but there is no denying that Rockwall does a wonderful job at giving us a detective that is delightfully clumsy, wonderfully stoic, insightful in his own way, and yet also convincingly world-weary in such a manner that it feels tailor made for him as an actor. Yet whilst this mixture does a wonderful job of not only enabling us to think that this is nothing new for this guy to say nothing of the fact that he is very much untroubled about what is going on it also manages to permit Rockwell to hide layers to this guy that only reveal themselves when the time is right and which add further dimension to his character. Suffice it to say he may be a mix of other detectives we’ve seen before, but there is no denying that Rockwell does do a good job in the role. Meanwhile, as the giddy Yin to Rockwell’s seen-it-all before Yang, we get a genuinely delightful performance from Ronan who is definitely spot-on as the quippy and genuinely passionate rookie detective who may be saddled with the dilemma of consistently not looking before she leaps to certain conclusions, but who is definitely blessed with such skills of observation that she very easily could solve this whole puzzle all by her own if she were given the chance to. Suffice it to say that Ronan has, since at least Lady Bird in 2017 for this writer, been a wonderful actress whenever she shows up in a project and here is most assuredly no different. As for the rest of the cast they all manage to do fairy good work here as well with several standouts including David Oyelowo proving to be a wonderful mix of both dapper yet also doggedly traditionalist in the role of screenwriter Melvyn Cocker-Norris, Adrien Brody (who I think is a highly underrated actor) is a delightful mix of both slimy and perversely charming as Kopernick, and Harris Dickinson who is eerily convincing in the role of a young Richard Attenborough (yes in case you didn’t know that would be the same Richard Attenborough who would years later play John Hammond in the cinematic adaptation of Jurassic Park). Suffice it to say that yes there are some performers who get shortchanged, but there is no denying that the work done by the cast is, by and large, delightfully in synch with the rest of the film.

All in all is See How They Run a perfect slice of mystery cinema? Sadly no not really though in all fairness it is immensely difficult to pull that off so it really shouldn’t feel too bad. Indeed not only is the format that this slice of cinema choosing to operate with one that might prove to be a bit much or too odd for some movie goers to handle, but there are some characters who just don’t get nearly as much in the way of screentime as they should despite game efforts from a well-selected and talented cast. Having said that however, there is no denying that there is also quite a bit to enjoy here as well. Indeed there are several performances, especially from our two leads, that are downright engaging, the work done behind the camera has resulted in a truly beautiful looking and sounding film, and the core mystery is actually fairly well done. Suffice it to say that it might be not for everyone, but for those of you who want a quirky and amusing little rainy-day mystery slice of cinema to wade your way through you should definitely give this movie a chance. Sure it might not be the best of the best but trust me when I say you can do a lot worse. Make of that what thou will. On a scale of 1-5 I give See How They Run a solid 3.5 out of 5.