With Bodies Bodies Bodies, and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, the whodunit genre seems to have gone through many reinventions to keep itself as fresh as possible. But there are plenty of murder mysteries that are just as dull as previous ones, offering very little to the viewer in return. Case in point: See How They Run is one of the banalest, most uneventful, and flat-out boring murder mysteries I’ve seen in a long time. There are some good elements peppered into the movie, but the overall picture isn’t worth clamoring for.
There’s an egregious meta-commentary throughout the film that tries to freshen up its premise, yet everything about it falls completely short. Its narrator, Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody) talks about how every murder mystery is all the same, while being its first victim for a masked murder seemingly killing off crew members of the potential feature film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) are tasked to investigate the murder, while the killer is on the loose and bodies start to pile up. It’s a fairly traditional murder mystery which tries to spice itself up with its fourth-wall breaks, but none of it works very well.
Its meta-jokes are way too on the nose for them to actively work. For instance, David Oyelowo’s character talks about how flashbacks break the flow of a movie (after a flashback, of course), and then shouts, “What’s next, a title card that says three weeks later?” CUT TO: a blank screen with “Three Weeks Later.” Yeah, it’s that type of meta-humor. And it doesn’t work. It feels too cheeky in a movie of this stature to work.
It also doesn’t help that you can see the killer coming a mile away. Director Tom George and writer Mark Chappell try to subvert the audience’s expectations too many times to count that it starts to become obvious who the killer is. When it’s too obvious, Stoppard tells Stalker not to jump to any conclusions. And so by narrowing down from the “too obvious” sphere of who the killer is to the “least obvious,” it’s quite easy to find your culprit. And the overall ending is fairly anticlimactic. Taking the meta-element of the movie further, See How They Run regroups every single character inside Agatha Christie’s house. And then the killer shows up, all hell breaks loose, and we have an ending foreshadowed by Brody’s character in the film’s opening. It’s a fairly dull and a paint-by-numbers way to end your movie, but it seems to be what it’s been aiming for: safe, conventional entertainment, with one element that sets it apart from other ‘whodunits.’
But since it’s too safe, it’s hard to attach ourselves to any of the characters, even if they’re well-performed by its cast. Only Sam Rockwell doesn’t impress, but Saoirse Ronan is consistently funny throughout the scenes she shares with him. I particularly enjoyed Oyelowo, who seems to have a blast playing someone who is consistently self-absorbed. Harris Dickinson is also a major standout as Richard Attenborough, one of The Mousetrap’s players. It’s funny how well-developed most side characters are, while its protagonist is one of the least interesting detectives I’ve seen recently. It seems purposeful that Rockwell looks and sounds bored, but he also doesn’t seem too enthused by the material he’s given.
And I wasn’t too enthused by the movie as well. It’s beautifully shot, has some funny comedy throughout, but didn’t do much to hold my interest. Once I knew who the killer was, my overall interest in the movie dwindled and never fully recovered. I enjoyed some aspects of See How They Run, but it’s not a movie that I will necessarily remember in a few days from now. If you like Christie-styled murder mysteries, you may enjoy the movie, but there are far better whodunits made this year that deserve your attention. Check out Bodies Bodies Bodies. Now that’s how you reinvent the wheel and subvert audience expectations.
See How They Run is now playing in theatres everywhere.