See How They Run, by Albert W. Vogt III

When See How They Run debuted in theaters this year, I intended to see it.  Unfortunately, it came out the same weekend as The Woman King.  I am one person, and I tend not to force Cameron to reviewing anything.  He has his own life to live, though I appreciate any contribution he gives.  Throw in the rest of the usual excuses and it all adds up to me not getting a chance to view See How They Run as soon as I would have liked.  One has to make these choices sometimes, and I went for the option that seemed to be getting the most attention outside of the trailers attached to other films I saw leading up to it.  Thank God for streaming services.  As I was scrolling around on Amazon Prime looking for something to review this evening, I came across today’s title.  The rest is simply making up for lost time.

There are many unique aspects to See How They Run.  For example, I cannot think of another film where the opening narrator is the person bumped off about fifteen minutes into the proceedings.  The narrator is Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody).  He is a Hollywood director in London’s West End in 1953, being in the city to make an adaptation of the very real Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap (1952).  This might sound like a true story, and See How They Run does sprinkle in a few historical people.  Leo is fictional, though.  He also has a healthy hatred of everything involved in the play.  Those involved in the play’s production, in turn, have no love for him.  It comes to a head when, after a fight with the leading male Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) over Attenborough’s wife and co-star Sheila Slim (Pearl Chanda), Leo heads backstage for a wardrobe change.  There he is murdered by a mysterious figure in a dark trench coat and fedora.  Leo’s corpse is found on stage, and it is there that the world-weary Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), and the eager and fresh-faced Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), first inspect it with the principal players looking on.  From the onset, Inspector Stoppard does not want anyone to leave.  Eventually, the spoiled entertainment set get their way and they are allowed to go home.  Commissioner Harold Scott (Tim Key), Inspector Stoppard’s boss, is not happy about his lead investigator’s actions to this point.  Partially to get even with Inspector Stoppard, but also to continue his reforms of police work, Commissioner Scott has Constable Stalker shadow Inspector Stoppard.  Inspector Stoppard is not thrilled with this, but he begrudgingly accepts her.  Most of what she says wears thin on his patience.  As one might do with any investigation, they go about interviewing each one.  After every interrogation, she comes away convinced that they have found the identity of Leo’s killer.  This becomes a headache for Inspector Stoppard and he tells Constable Stalker, who also writes everything down, to stop jumping to conclusions.  I will not go through each bit of questioning.  The long and short of it is that it confirms the ill attitude everyone had towards Leo.  As such, it makes their case harder.  Everyone had a motive to kill him, which means that there are no real suspects.  What does continue to remain a source of suspicion for Constable Stalker is Inspector Stoppard.  The first moment she realizes that he is not entirely level with her is while staking out British film producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith), having had enough of her earnest questions, Inspector Stoppard suddenly leaves for a supposed dentist appointment.  When Woolf eventually appears, she finds Inspector Stoppard coming out of a pub.  Constable Stalker and Inspector Stoppard have their separate issues, and both can be traced to World War II.  Constable Stalker’s husband had died during the war, leaving her with two children for which to provide.  Inspector Stoppard’s wife had left him while he was fighting in Italy.  This last bit eventually becomes a clue for Constable Stalker related to their case.  Amongst the bits of information taken from scriptwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) is a lover matching the description of Inspector Stoppard’s ex-wife.  Constable Stalker makes this connection after a night of drinking causes her to drive him home and put him in bed, where she sees the picture of his ex-wife.  Her hunch seems proven true when, during a joint viewing of The Mousetrap, she spots Inspector Stoppard hunched over Mervyn’s murdered body, who had recently become the killer’s second victim.  She then subdues Inspector Stoppard with a shovel.  When he comes to and is greeted by a woman found in Leo’s black book with the same build and name as Inspector Stoppard’s ex-wife, it turns out not to be her, and Commissioner Scott must issue an awkward apology.  Constable Stalker is sorry, too, but Inspector Stoppard just wants to get the case solved.  So does she, and they arrive at the same conclusion, but separately: it was the theater usher, Dennis Corrigan (Charlie Cooper).  He has created a false dinner party and invited those left alive, all at Agatha Christie’s (Shirley Henderson) estate in the Berkshires.  Dennis does not like the fact that the famous writer has based The Mousetrap on a real crime through which he had lived, and has been trying to get the play and movie shut down.  Luckily, Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker arrive in time to put an end to Dennis’ mini-rampage, and go on to get rewarded for their efforts.

There is a lot going on in See How They Run.  It is loosely based on the aforementioned Agatha Christie play that, as it says in the film at the end when Leo picks back up his narration, is still running in London to this day.  I suspect that whoever wrote the film had seen the play, had been an American, and decided to spice it up with the events in this film.  It is interesting because all the suggestions Leo makes to improve the movie version is pretty much happen exactly as he says in the movie.  In all, it makes for a fun film experience.  On the more serious side is my Catholic take.  It is clear that Inspector Stoppard has some demons that he has yet to fully face.  This is evident during a scene when you see him alone in his apartment cutting puzzles from blocks of wood for a child that is never coming thanks to his wife’s unfaithfulness.  There are several boxes full of these toys.  Inspector Stoppard’s solution is the bottle.  He is hardly the first, and he certainly will not be the last.  The solution that this Catholic would tell you would be to turn to God.  In fact, recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have as part of their recovery program making peace with God.  These ideas do not seem to have a place in the movie, which is a shame.  By this point, perhaps I should know better.  If nothing else, I can say that it has a happy ending.  This is really all God wants in the end.

If there is one complaint about See How They Run, it is that they made Sam Rockwell do an English accent.  I do not have the best ears for such things, but surely there was a more qualified actor?  Regardless, it is a clever little movie, and fun, too, and worth the time.

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