What better way to usher in the autumn season than with a good old-fashioned whodunit?
In early 1950s London, an inspector and a constable must investigate a murder that occurred amongst the cast and crew of a popular play performed on the West End: “The Mousetrap,” written by Agatha Christie. Directed by Tom George, this film has all the necessary ingredients for a satisfying mystery with a meta twist that verges on parody, assisted by the setting of the real play. Many murder mysteries are meta nowadays, but this film fully commits– providing ample amounts of humor. The opening scenes draw you in right away with Adrien Brody’s amusing narration that breaks the fourth wall. The film utilizes cliches to put a spin on a well-known genre— in common murder mystery fashion, it was predictably unpredictable.
Saoirse Ronan and Harris Dickinson are enjoyable to watch, and Sam Rockwell fills the role of a beaten-down detective well. Adrien Brody, despite his questionable choices in real life such as starring in a film directed by Roman Polanski, who was charged with rape (and 5 other related charges), and a racist Saturday Night Live joke, turns in a fantastic comedic performance. Ronan and Rockwell play off each other well. Ronan portrays the young and eager constable opposite Rockwell’s worn-out and gruff inspector. Ronan is delightful as the co-lead, bringing a sense of innocence, drive and humor. Rockwell’s character, while funny in his own right, seems to be a pointed combination of detective tropes. Though it is a clever parody, this choice for Rockwell unfortunately creates a rather underwhelming and forgettable character.
Additionally, the film utilized real-life historical figures such as actor Richard Attenborough (played by Harris Dickinson). This added to the self-referential feel of the movie; grounding it in real events, as well as providing some historical context. It also causes the audience to question what events really happened, which makes it all the more engaging.
The set design from production designer Amanda McArthur and set decorators Celia De La Hey and Sophia Millar was vibrant and cluttered, which created a sense of realism along with being aesthetically pleasing and cozy. The costumes by Odile Dicks-Mireaux were beautiful and contributed to the plot, cleverly suggesting clues. Bright colors were utilized in much of the overall design of the film which gave it a light-hearted feel.
The crafty script, written by Mark Chappell, is full of references and you can be sure that no line is unimportant. The movie frequently referenced the mystery genre and specifically hinted at Agatha Christie’s writing. Editing was used cleverly and the framing was often creative and fun, adding a layer of charm and making the film more memorable. The music by Daniel Pemberton added to the momentum of the plot and added another layer of enchantment. The jazz-like score combined with the colorful sets was reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film without being an outright copycat.
While there are outrageous moments that are certainly amusing, the comedy that is found in the quieter moments of the film is truly what makes it shine. Ronan never acts over the top, but her small quips and subtle expressions give the audience all they need to understand her character and appreciate the satire. The supporting cast brilliantly adds understated comical moments of their own quite often, rounding out the movie in an endearing way.
This film hits the spot for a satisfying whodunit film perfect for the fall season. The acting is top-notch, and combined with the overall design of the movie and the music it manages to set itself apart from other similar films. Though it is not groundbreaking, it feels fresh and was enjoyable to watch. Those interested in this genre should see this film in the theater if they can.