See how they run, review: Meta Noir

Leo Koepernick opens the film with this scathing monologue because he is on the run from Joseph McCarthy and the blacklist in the UK, where he was hired to film Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, a hugely successful detective story for a 100-screening scene. His voracious nature has already offended his producer John Wolf (Rhys Shearsmith), his screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) and his star Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson). So it shouldn’t be a shock when he turns up dead on stage – his dangling tongue ripped out of his mouth – because, in the end, the victim is always the one with the most potential deadly enemies.

Enter Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), a disheveled detective tasked with catching the killer without interrupting the play’s lucrative run or infuriating the friends of his superiors. Stoppard is paired with the inexperienced but dedicated PC Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), a star rookie who loves movies and can’t stop looking at investigating the rules and paths of detectives. Stoppard, by comparison, is laconic to the point of being like a misguided lunatic, perpetually drunk, grumbling about life with general questions and no deeper analysis implied. It is not at all like the sneakers that Stalker is so attached to on stage and on the big screen.

Above all else, Stoppard instills in Stalker the importance of not jumping to conclusions, not taking on the simplest interpretations of available data simply because they seem narratively compelling given her preconceived notion of crime-solving. But it becomes harder for her to do so the deeper they interrogate the suspects, and the more she learns about Stoppard’s own past and how it might be connected to the victim’s.

There are many plausible suspects within the production, as every piece of evidence proves that Leo had some sort of grievance with nearly everyone he came into contact with. But Stoppard pretty much neglects every possible solution to the case, struggling to stay upright most of the time. The glamor, charm and procedural element of the detective becomes frustratingly stunted as the viewer has to contend with a real murder living in the shadow of the funny, fake one.

The tension between expectation and reality makes Stoppard a strangely irresistible figure. A film so obsessed with how detectives function means that every time Stoppard seems frazzled or too frazzled to really care, we viewers feel like we’re only a scene or two away from him. Poirot breaks out of his somnambulistic spell and jumps into action and sets everything straight. But what if he can’t?

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