The witty, pre-pandemic Daniel Craig vehicle Knives Out whetted an appetite once more for spoofing Agatha Christie. Queue-jumping that film’s sequel (due out later this year) is this rival meta-spoof, the feature debut of Tom George, whose imaginative BBC Three Cotswolds slacker comedy This Country offers few hints that a postwar, London-set whodunnit might be George’s next achievement. See How They Run ponders that cornerstone – or millstone – of the Christie legacy, her tourist bucket-listed play The Mousetrap, focusing on 1953 plans to turn it into a movie despite Christie’s contractual stipulation that it not be filmed until its theatrical run is over (it’s still on to this day). But the planned film is thwarted anyway when its appointed director, Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody), is murdered in the theatre’s costume room.
Scenery to chew is grabbed with both fists by Brody (our initial narrator) and David Oyelowo, playing Köpernick’s pretentious nemesis, screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris. But the true comedy turn is the delicious partnership of Sam Rockwell, as weary, booze-addled Inspector Stoppard (with a touch of Jack Dee about him), and Saoirse Ronan, excellent as uniformed rookie Constable Stalker, a naive Irish cinephile who can’t stop talking and noting everything down. Real 1953 personalities such as actor Dickie Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) his wife, Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda) and others furnish some of the amusingly gaudy ensemble cast. Aiding the meta-complexity of George’s retooling of drawing room murder tropes is a Wes Anderson-like sense of playful wonder in the settings. It’s a fine, if mild, escapist hoot.