Imagine this: a comedy/murder mystery (like Knives Out) but set in a 50’s posh British theater with some questionable detectives trying to figure out who the killer is. And if it looks suspiciously like a Wes Anderson film, that’s because it does.
In London’s famous West End, they’re showing Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, a play so popular that film producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith) wants to make it into a movie, directed by sleazy Leo Köpernick (Adrian Brody), who also serves as the movie’s narrator. BUT! Someone doesn’t want the film made and kills Leo at the theater, prompting Scotland Yard to send out their finest: alcoholic Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and his new partner, the talkative & whip-smart Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan).
But they got their work cut out for them as everyone looks like a suspect! Could it be Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo), the angry screenwriter? Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson), the theater owner? Stage star Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) or his jealous co-star (Pearl Chanda)? Or maybe it’s someone else? Police Commissioner Harrold Scott (Tim Key) wants answers, which leaves Stoppard and Stalker to rush their investigation, until Stalker thinks she’s got a handle on who the killer may be. This leads them to watch a performance of The Mousetrap where (oh no!) a key suspect is bumped off! Now, who did it? Could the answers lie at Agatha Christies (Shirley Henderson) home?
Like director Tom George, writer Mark Chappell is also a BBC-TV writer with just one other screenplay to his name. I love a good who-done-it, and this one, mixed with low-key British humor and very clever wordplay, is excellent. Chappell takes the world-worn genre and spins it, using delicious use of meta references, like the writer saying how much he hates the “three weeks ago” trope with flashbacks, and then shows just what he hates. The dialogue is quick, funny, and delivered by Rockwell & Ronan with great timing and chemistry.
But then there’s director George who delights in teasing the audience by copycatting Wes Anderson every chance he gets. Split-screens, tracking shots that line up, overhead street shots, and other camera angles that are Anderson staples, and are paid homage practically throughout the film. Whether that was on accident or George really loves his style of direction, who can say? In any case, it looks great and adds to the overall flavor of the movie. As far as the film’s big mystery goes, I certainly didn’t know who did it, which was refreshing as it came as a big surprise to me. Check this movie out!
**Now showing only in theaters