A COUP DE THEATRE… without twists and turns – Review

Surfing on the wave of investigative films launched by Kenneth Branagh, COUP DE THÉÂTRE tried to get out of the whodunit game: without success.

In recent years, detective and murder films seem to be experiencing a certain revival. In 2017, Kenneth Branagh had already resuscitated the famous Hercule Poirot on the occasion of a Crime on the Orient Express. Two years later, it was the turn of Rian Johnson to pursue this same inspiration by adding to his investigative film a few touches of cynicism in the very good At Knives Out (2019). Finally, at the start of the year, Kenneth Branagh was back with Death on the Nilea new investigation carried out by Hercule Poirot that we prefer to pass over in silence… With SPECTACULAR TURN OF EVENTSdirector Tom George attempts to take the investigative film one step further by pairing it with a meta commentary on the genre of the whodunit (literally “who did it?”).

In 1952, Agatha Christie was inspired by a radio script broadcast in honor of Queen Mary, widow of King George V, to write “The Mousetrap”. Inspired by a news item, this play has since been performed non-stop in London’s West End. So much so that it holds the record for the play with the most consecutive performances in the world since its creation. In SPECTACULAR TURN OF EVENTSthe mysterious atmosphere of “The Mousetrap” spills over into 1950s London where a Hollywood director who was planning the big-screen adaptation of the play is suddenly found murdered. This macabre discovery marks the starting point of the film of Tom George who will never stop playing with the codes of the whodunit.

Credits: Walt Disney Company

With the help of a voice-over and glances at the camera, SPECTACULAR TURN OF EVENTS offers a meta commentary on the investigative film. The concept had something to seduce but unfortunately, the film of Tom George turns out to be not a whodunit but rather a feature film about whodunit. Quickly, the director moves away from the genre initially carried by Agatha Christie in his novels. In the literature, the whodunit is characterized by the structure of the investigation which is led by an often eccentric amateur detective or a rather depressed police inspector. At the house of Tom George, it is Sam Rockwell and his sad cocker look who will be in charge of leading the investigation alongside Saoirse Ronan, the charming asset of the duo. As for the characters, these are often stereotypes (the old bigot, the elegant butler, the mysterious businessman) in the same way as the settings (the isolated country house or the rich bourgeois apartment): only elements that we will find in SPECTACULAR TURN OF EVENTS.

Yet even using all the key elements of the whoddunitas does not forget to underline its voice-over, SPECTACULAR TURN OF EVENTS succeeds in making an oven. Thus, meta criticism quickly takes precedence over investigation and character building. In a work where each individual should be a potential suspect, the viewer quickly faces a pre-selection of characters. And this, even if they all seem to have reasons to resent the assassinated director (humiliated collaborators, courted married women…). Thus, the public ends up completely losing interest in the protagonists, all as insignificant as each other. Even when one of the police is suspected, not a single eyebrow will be raised above the weary eyes of the onlookers.

Photo from the film COUP DE THEATER
Credits: Walt Disney Company

Far from dragging its audience into a Cluedo mental, SPECTACULAR TURN OF EVENTS only stands on its own thanks to its five-star but nonetheless underutilized cast. Whether Sam Rockwell seems to be constantly wondering what he went to do in this mess, Adrian Brody is rather believable as a foul director while Harris Dickinson continues to enrich his acting register with this role far removed from that of the influencer model of Without filter, his latest success crowned with the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Finally, Saoirse Ronanrather endearing in her role as an apprentice detective, steals all the scenes from her partner by embodying the comic element of the film.

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With its calibration stolen from Wes Anderson, SPECTACULAR TURN OF EVENTS turns out to be decent entertainment but definitely bad whodunit which leaves no chance to its characters. Tom George demonstrates that following a recipe to the letter is not enough to make a good detective film. And this despite nods to cinephiles, such as the final reference to Les Diaboliques d’Henri-Georges Clouzot which will lead us to prefer the 1955 original to this attempt at investigation made in 2022.

Sarah Cerange


Original title : See How They Run
Achievement : Tom George
Actors: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Harris Dickinson
Release date : September 14, 2022
Duration : 98 minutes

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A COUP DE THEATRE… without twists and turns – Review