This movie could not be more open about its contents. Aptly titled The Oxford Murders, this who-done-it murder mystery is a decent movie. However, I was expecting much more from Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia. He’s the guy behind such sleeper hits like Acción Mutante, El Día de la Bestia, and Perdita Durango. Based on a novel written by Argentine mathematician and writer Guillermo Martínez, this is just an average thriller. It could have been something much more, but pretty one-dimensional characters and performances by almost everyone apart from fantastic John Hurt prevented it from becoming the next big thing in who-done-it movies.
I cannot help but remember Clue from 1985, starring Tim Curry, a movie that managed to be both engaging and entertaining although it was based on a board game. The Oxford Murders feels like a knock-off version of some Dan Brown’s book. A more straightforward version of Da Vinci Code or Angles & Demons. All of this is despite the fact that the writer of this particular book actually has a Ph.D. in mathematical logic. After all this trashing, it’s time for some good news: the pacing is pretty good and there will be cool twists. And who doesn’t like a good twist smack dab in the middle of a movie?
Of course, movies like The Oxford Murders are all about trying to figure out who the killer is. I’m sure that in no time you’ll have your own theories about why this is all happening. And, more importantly, what these mathematical symbols actually mean. If you like this sort of thing, I highly recommend you check out Fermat’s Room. It features not one, not two, but three mathematicians trying to solve a deadly puzzle. And the movie even references Fermat and his theorem renaming it Bormat’s Last Theorem.
Martin is a very ambitious mathematician, making it all the way from the United States to the prestigious university of Oxford. There, he wants to work under one of his idols, an aging but still very sharp professor Arthur Seldom. Like all professors, Seldom is brash and pompous, especially in class, so Martin’s attempts to impress him have failed. Losing on all fronts, Martin luckily meets up with Lorna, a handsome girl he met while playing squash. Finally thinking that his life is getting better, the two of them discover his landlord’s dead body. And so the game begins…
In case you like mathematics and murder mysteries, you will be thrilled with The Oxford Murders. For the rest of us, this will be an enjoyable distraction well worth your time. The cinematography was excellent featuring a very saturated color palette. It helped create this juicy atmosphere full of suspense and mystery. And that atmosphere, in turn, made the storytelling feel natural. To cut the story short, the movie was just flowing off the screen. Apart from the excellent John Hurt, I would also like to mention the gorgeous Leonor Watling. You’ll see why.
Finally, I do want to add that The Oxford Murders features one fucked up part about Kalman, one of Seldom’s former students. Not only these scenes are quite graphic in nature but they also bear some truth as a number of people tried to do the same thing he did. In fact, if you’ve seen the movie Frankenhooker, you’ll know what I mean.
Director: Álex de la Iglesia
Writers: Álex de la Iglesia, Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Guillermo Martínez
Cast: Elijah Wood, John Hurt, Leonor Watling, Julie Cox, Jim Carter, Dominique Pinon
Fun Stuff: Michael Caine and Jeremy Irons were considered for the role of Arthur Seldom.