See How They Run Four stars In cinemas; Cert 12A
The wily whodunit is alive and well. On paper, director Tom George’s meticulously crafted murder mystery looks to be a cheap spoof of an all-too familiar genre.
For a start, most of the characters in See How They Run are involved in a celebrated production of an Agatha Christie play. The chief crime-solver sports a full-bodied moustache. And the dead guy isn’t just dead – he also gets to narrate the opening segment from beyond the grave. If that doesn’t scream ‘parody’, then I don’t know what does.
On screen, however, See How They Run is a different beast entirely. Indeed, George’s sneaky, three-dimensional Cluedo is far too respectful an entity to simply point the finger and laugh. What we have here is more of a subversive crowd-pleaser than a flimsy pastiche – one that fully embraces, rather than ridicules, the twists, turns and tricky mis-directions of a well-worn yet oddly comforting set-up.
It’s the 1950s in London, and Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is a West End smash. The curtain has dropped on its 100th performance, and a major motion picture is in the works. Thus, its star-studded team of thespians have gathered for a well-deserved celebratory bash. Among the attendees is a narcissistic Hollywood dimwit by the name of Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody). Leo doesn’t care much for murder mysteries but has been hired by a money-hungry team of producers to direct The Mousetrap for the silver screen.
There’s just one problem: they’ll only be allowed to film if the play stops running (ha!). Plus, everyone hates Leo. The film’s melodramatic screenwriter (David Oyelowo’s Mervyn Cocker-Norris) can’t stand to be in the same room as him. The Mousetrap’s leading man, the inimitable Richard ‘Dickie’ Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), has already been in a fist fight with the chap.
Leo’s made his fair share of enemies, then – most will become suspects in a real-life murder case after Leo’s lifeless, battered body ends up on stage after the party.
Enter Constable Stalker ( Saoirse Ronan), a plucky Irish officer looking to leave her mark on the Metropolitan Police Service. A diligent, determined type, Stalker is rarely lost for words and jots everything down in her trusted notebook. She is, it would appear, the complete opposite of Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), whose hazardous approach to police work involves showing up late, doing as little as possible and nipping off to the pub for a swift half. Stalker and Stopper make for quite the odd couple, but, hey, they might be the only two eejits in London capable of solving the case. Let the games begin.
You know how this goes. Again, Tom George – working with a tricksy screenplay by Mark Chappell – has quite the task on his hands. True, See How They Run is a comedy – its chief concern is to make sure that the jokes work and that the people telling them know how to deliver a punchline. It succeeds on both counts.
But the trickier job is ensuring that this cheeky, self-aware circus keeps a lid on its own custom-made mystery. After all, what’s the point in lampooning an entire sub-genre of fiction if the central conceit – a whodunit within a whodunit – isn’t airtight? We needn’t have worried.
Video of the Day
George and his team know exactly what they’re at, and this pitch-perfect caper handles itself very well indeed. By the time we reach the spirited denouement, it could be the bloomin’ cat that did the killing (there’s no cat).
What matters is that the road to revelation is paved with fun, and – following in the footsteps of Knives Out and the awesome Only Murders in the Building – See How They Run is an absolute hoot. That it manages to unravel the formula to which it playfully adheres, while crafting a clever, thrilling tale of its own, in less than 100 minutes is a bonus.
Each of our players delivers the goods. Oyelowo is wonderful as the precious, pompous writer who despises flashbacks (his character features in at least three). Rockwell is surprisingly low-key – yet reliably funny – as the discombobulated copper with a past.
Ronan, meanwhile, is this film’s USP. A rookie sleuth who’s quick to judge – and handy with a pun – Stalker blames everyone she meets on Leo’s grisly demise, and Ronan’s comic chops are finely tuned to that of Chappell and George’s hilarious, harmonious set-up. In a word? Delightful.
Crimes of the Future
IFI & selected cinemas; Cert 18
David Cronenberg’s 22nd film – which shares the title of his second, despite bearing no relation – certainly has an interesting premise. In a dystopian future, mankind is corporeally evolving. Pain is no longer felt, leading to a new trend of attaining erogenous pleasure through surgery and consensual mutilation.
Meanwhile, our protagonist Saul (Cronenberg regular Viggo Mortensen) grows mysterious new organs, which are surgically extracted without anaesthetic by partner Caprice (Lea Seydoux) in front of a paying audience.
If Cronenberg fans have felt short-changed by his recent swerve into serious drama (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method), they can rest assured that the filmmaker’s trademark brand of “body horror” is fully reinstated here.
Messed up, even by his standards, Crimes of the Future is dark, disturbing, occasionally inspired, and comedically twisted (Kristen Stewart does great work as a kooky organ registrar).
The singular vision, the score by Howard Shore, the Giger-esque prop design all contribute to making this a macabre, leftfield victory – albeit one you’ll never want to watch again. Hilary White
Both Sides of the Blade
IFI & selected cinemas; Cert 16
Sara (Juliette Binoche) and Jean (Vincent Lindon) are the picture of romance in the autumn of one’s years. We meet them on holidays, frolicking like newlyweds on a sunny beach before coming home to Paris in winter.
Trouble is introduced to paradise in the form of François (Grégoire Colin), Sara’s previous lover from many years back whom she left for Jean, François’ best friend at the time.
François has a begun a sports agency and wants Jean to come and work with him on the new venture. This sets the three on an inevitable collision course with one another, bringing back to the surface sensations of unfinished business and dormant lust. All the while, Jean is grappling with his strained relationship with his teenage son.
Claire Denis took home the Silver Bear for Best Director at Berlin in February for this glum but compelling melodrama about a bourgeois love triangle coming to a head. Binoche – reuniting with Denis and writer Christine Angot following Let the Sunshine In – is the big draw here, brilliantly at home with a lost and conflicted character whose façade of assuredness is succumbing to feelings she is not entirely in control of. Hilary White
Disney+; Cert 9+
We might file Robert Zemeckis’s Pinocchio next to Netflix’s The Sea Beast as the second big children’s film of 2022 to feature the word “bollocks”. Indeed, Disney’s live-action rendering of its 1940 animated classic is full of surprises, chief among them a sweary coachman (Luke Evans) who should know better.
This new and unimproved Pinocchio comes with a starry cast sheet. Tom Hanks (Geppetto), Cynthia Erivo (the Blue Fairy), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Jiminy Cricket) – the list goes on. Meanwhile, the man in charge of it all is the same filmmaker behind Back to the Future and Forrest Gump.
So, um, what happened?
The story remains largely untouched. A lonely woodcarver wishes upon a star and, suddenly, the puppet on his desk comes to life. Alas, wonder turns to mayhem after poor Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) is kidnapped by a travelling circus.
A beloved tale, then – but in Zemeckis’s hands, a cold, flat, witless and astoundingly odd affair. Shoddy visuals hardly help, nor does a half-arsed turn from Mr Hanks, and the entire fiasco looks and sounds like a cheap and charmless pantomime. Chris Wasser