Murder in the West End (original title: See How They Run) is a film by Tom George produced by Searchlight Pictures and played by Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson And David Eyelowo available from yesterday on Disney+. This is the review.
London, West End district, 1953. At the Ambassadors, at the end of the hundredth performance of Agatha Christie’s play Mousetrap, producer John Woolf’s decision to make a film adaptation is celebrated. For this reason, the event is also attended by Leo Köpernick, rude and mellifluous American director in charge of directing the film and at loggerheads with the homosexual screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris.
When Köpernick is brutally murdered backstage at the theatre, all members of the cast, including producer Woolf and theater owner Petula Spencer, are under suspicion. The alcoholic Inspector Stoppard is charged with conducting the investigation, who is joined by the young and enterprising – even too much – Agent Stalker. But getting to the identity of the killer will not be an easy task.
On a screenplay by Mark Chappelldirector Tom George weaves an intricate weave that is at the same time homage and parody of Agatha Christie’s detective stories. Behind the surface of entertainmentonly apparently an end in itself, and of detection that one would expect to find in a classic thriller, a sincere and refined game of references and quotations emerges which constitute an amused and amusing meta-textual discourse.
Not just the work Mousetrap, uninterruptedly on the bill at the Ambassadors from 1952 to 2020 and holder of the record as the most performed work in the same theater, serves as the starting point for staging a mystery, but the film itself somehow becomes an extension of it. Like this, Murder in the West End (the original title, more subtle and witty, is to be preferred) is a continuous short circuit between reality and representation, between staging and truth, and on which the director moves characters and story. Because if it is true that the film we see is inspired by a theatrical work, we see this work “leaving” from the confined spaces of the theater to land in the real world, as well as the storyboards shown by Köpernick with his ideas for ( r) innovating the story he deemed boring then transform into what we are literally looking at.
We talk about The queen of Africa and Bogart, Grace Kelly and Hitchcock, the real characters (the producer Woolf, the actor Richard Attenborough) coexist with the imaginary ones created by Christie and the authors of the film. Because of this Murder in the West End, a “film about the film about the theatre”, is more than a mystery comedy: it is a postmodern work in the broadest sense of the term which refers to a thousand things without losing its identity. Indeed, the whodunit – despite being the cornerstone that forces the two protagonists to move and act – it is even placed in the background compared to the story and its infinite references, even if on closer inspection the director places all the elements in front of the spectator to try to solve the problem independently ‘weave, as taught by Agatha Christie.
Sure, the direction isn’t particularly inventive but, with the exception of the split-screens that branch out the action, it doesn’t indulge in head shots and runs away without smudging, also managing (and it’s no small feat) not to fall into the ridiculous.
Murder in the West End therefore it manages to be a film that is both classic and modern, perhaps not particularly memorable, but fresh and with the right rhythm: a tasty and pressing meta-cinematographic detective story that can please fans of the genre and those looking for something more sophisticated.
Murder in the West End is currently available on the digital platform of Disney+.
Murder in the West End