After the success of films like Kenneth Branagh’s remake of “Murder on the Orient Express” and Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out,” whodunits have been entering a resurgence. The recently released “See How They Run” is the latest example of this genre, and a pretty enjoyable one at that.
The whodunit is a type of mystery story centered around a crime where the perpetrator is not revealed until the end, and figuring out their identity is the main source of drama. With the long history of the genre in all forms of media, there are conventions and cliches that have become par for the course.
Similarly to recent whodunit films, “See How They Run” deconstructs the genre while paralleling its tropes. As much as it isn’t afraid to directly state the conventions, it plays to the strengths of these conventions at the same time.
Directed by Tom George, “See How They Run” is a more comedic take on the genre set in 1950s London, following a veteran inspector and his perky rookie assistant (played by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan, respectively) as they investigate the murder of a crew member for the movie adaptation of a hit play.
What really drives home the modern mystery approach of “See How They Run” is its main setting and crime centering around the play and upcoming film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic story “The Mousetrap.” It makes for an interesting setting overall, and it works well as a very clear meta-commentary.
Another major draw of this film is that it takes a lot of comedic and editing inspiration from the works of a director like Wes Anderson, with a focus on precise framing as well as witty and awkward conversations between characters. While nothing in this film is visually or comically on par with what one would expect from Anderson, it’s still an approach that we have rarely seen in the whodunit genre, so it’s a nice change of pace for the story.
Another highlight is definitely the comedic chemistry between leads Rockwell and Ronan. They play into their characters extremely well, which leads to a lot of great comedic moments and sequences throughout the film. The cold, uncaring detective played by Rockwell melds perfectly with Ronan’s optimistic yet often impulsive character, creating a dynamic that never lets up.
I think that in terms of the actual mystery at hand, the film isn’t exceptional, and is arguably pretty predictable when you get down to it. For a while, the film uses one of the most obvious red herrings that you’ll see in a whodunit film, and this guise lasts for so long that it could start to get annoying. Thankfully, the characters and the comedy are able to shine through even when the mystery is falling flat.
Overall, “See How They Run” is another enjoyable modern-day whodunit that is able to use the genre’s stylings to great success and is hopefully a sign for even more films in this style to follow in its footsteps.