“ Genre: Crime & Thriller / Theatrical Release: 2008 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Alex de la Iglesia / Actors: Elijah Wood, John Hurt, Leonor Watling ... / DVD released 2008-09-01 at Contender Home Entertainment Group / Features of the DVD: PAL „
The Oxford Murders had a very limited worldwide release for some reason, despite starring Elijah Wood and John Hurt; one would expect it as such to get a cinema release, but this thing went straight to DVD, and while it's not an especially great film, it probably deserves better than to be shoved straight on to a home medium. It is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by the Argentinian Guillermo Martínez, although if you lump it in with the likes of The Da Vinci Code-esque baroque-style thrillers, then you've hit the nail on the head pretty much.
Elijah Wood plays Martin, who is an American student at the University of Oxford. He very desperately wants to have Arthur Seldom (Hurt) supervise his thesis, and he idolises him in a way that's not too healthy and just a little bit creepy. Soon enough, dead bodies begin showing up, and they have to discover who the murderer was. It's got a few stings in its tail, although it didn't get as fully loopy as I hoped it would, and the performances are decent if nothing revelatory.
The problem is that it's just quite boring and snoozy: with a better script this could have been an exciting thriller but instead it's just a lazyily written and procedural film that's been licked by just about every other similar film, like The Da Vinci Code, for example, where political intrigue meshes with academia in a strange and obtuse way.
McKellan is probably the stand-out as the mildly cantankerous teacher, but Wood is decent enough in an undemanding role that doesn't really do anything for the careers of anyone involved nonetheless. Neither dire nor at all exciting, this is just "meh".
A young brilliant student, Martin went to Oxford to meet Seldom to ask him to be his mentor for his thesis. He lived in the house where the owner of the house knew Seldom when they were young. Seldom who rejected his mentor request, suddenly accepted it after a murder happened in the house. The old lady died.
After the death, the serial murders happened in Oxford, not only pointing him as the witness but also as the suspect. Martin tried to investigate this Oxford murders, found out that there were lots of secret hidden in Oxford.
If you like a smart crime movie with lots of twists and many unpredictable plot, you would like this movie so much. Like many psychological movies, the complicated story, which somehow unrelated each other could be beautifully arranged to a good and entertaining movie.
When I thought it could be a bed time movie, I ended up awake all night long because of this. The Oxford Murders is one good movie I should recommend those who like to watch "Zodiac", the difference is, that in this movie you would find some unexpected English humor.
Elijah Wood, played as Martin, the main character of this movie, left all the hobbit attributes behind. His performance here is really promising, reminded me of his younger age when he was playing in "The Faculty". Of course he is better looking and performed better act than he used to be. But you wouldn't see even the tiniest piece of Frodo in Martin. What a surprise.
The best part of this movie is the ending. I like how the script writer could make the story ended unpredictably like this movie. I love it and I think people who enjoy crime movies like "Fracture" would like this too.
The Oxford Murders is a maths bod's dream come true. The murderer of local Oxford people is killing with maths in mind, which kind of narrows down who is actually behind the murders themselves. Set for some reason in 1993, Elijah Wood plays Martin and American student who moves to Oxford to study.
Arthur Seldom (John Hurt) is a lecturer at Oxford. Wood wants Seldom to be his mentor, but before any studying can begin, people start being murdered. The murderer as I said uses maths as a motive, so its up to John Hurt and Elijah Wood to solve the crimes. Of course the bumbling police detectives have to play catch up with the Oxford bods as they get closer to the truth.
John Hurt, always excellent, has much more to do here than I've seen him in recent times. Wood doesn't really impress me at all; he becomes more annoying as he becomes more manic as the murderer gets closer.
What annoyed me a bit was although Elijah Wood was a maths student, he to resort to a children's book on Fibonacci to solve the murders. What?! That was stupid. The most interesting story was that of the demented maths tutor Alex Cox, a man who becomes so obsessed that he lobotomises himself!
The use of Oxford was good, but again Britain is depicted as a backward medieval society by a foreign director. Why do people insist on representing this country in this way? Its totally ridiculous. Another film where a Spanish French director makes the UK look like A Victorian throwback is Fragile starring Calista Flockhart.
Worth a watch, The Oxford Murders is accessible, but has its flaws.
The Oxford Murders (2008)
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Run time: 108 minutes
Director: Álex de la Iglesia
"Logic is not a body of doctrine, but a mirror-image of the world"
Mathematics and murder are perhaps not the oddest of pairings for anyone who has ever struggled with their numbers. Based on Argentine writer and mathematician Guillermo Martinez's 2003 novel of the same name, "The Oxford Murders" brings his intellectual thriller and murder mystery to the big screen. Having read and enjoyed the book soon after its release, I was torn between wanting to see the film adaptation or not; on the one hand I had forgotten just enough detail of the plot to make the story worth hearing again, but on the other it is never easy to see a book you have enjoyed adapted into a movie, as things just won't look and feel quite as you imagined them to be in your head whilst reading. In the end, the wanting to hear again what I recalled as a satisfying story won out, as well as the curiosity for how the weighty principles discussed in the book with such clarity would be transposed to the film. Certainly, Martinez's writing made sense of philosophical and mathematical ideas such as Wittgenstein, Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty, Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, and circles - but could Hollywood do the same without producing either a muddled film, or something that removed a lot of what made the book so good?
Our protagonist for this film is young American graduate student Martin (Elijah Wood), who arrives in Oxford to pursue a PhD in mathematics, hoping to be able to study under renowned professor of logic Arthur Seldom (John Hurt). Martin has an unhealthy obsession with Seldom, even to the extent of taking a room with Mrs Eagleton (Anna Massey), a friend of Seldom's and fellow maths nerd, having being involved in the breaking of the Enigma code during the war. With such high expectations to live up to, Martin is crushed when his first encounter with Seldom shows him to be bad tempered and unpleasant, and more than happy to humiliate him in front of a crowded lecture theatre. Disillusioned, Martin decides to abandon his studies at Oxford, and returns to his digs - only to encounter Seldom visiting his landlady. They enter the house together, finding Mrs Eagleton dead in her armchair; worse, she appears to have been murdered, and Seldom reveals that he received a note earlier that day with the words "the first of the series" and a circle inscribed on it. Logically, therefore, there is a serial murderer at large in Oxford with a series of mathematical symbols connecting the victims - apparently as a challenge to the Arthur Seldom, master of logic and author of a book that includes a chapter on the theoretical possibilities of the perfect crime - and it is up to Martin, Seldom and a sceptical police inspector (Jim Carter) to break the code of the symbols before any more murders take place.
Admittedly, reading over this synopsis, it seems very much like this is a bog standard serial killer story with some overly intellectual fluff involving maths tacked on to the top to make the story appeal to fans of "The Da Vinci Code". Well yes, that is in fact what the film is like - it really never manages to incorporate the mathematical and philosophical elements as an integral part of the story like the book does. For example, the story is largely about the battle of two intellectual ideals, Martin's belief that every problem has a solution and that numbers are infallible, against Seldom's (Wittgenstein inspired) ideas that we cannot know the truth, and this should be driving the story a good deal more than it appears to be. As the film stands, it seems like nothing more than a trivial argument that has nothing to do with solving the whodunit. Likewise, the aside about "Bormat's Last Theorem" has no real place in the story that the film tells, while it made perfect sense within the novel. The film's major flaw is therefore not so much that it explains a lot of the key ideas poorly and inadequately, but more that it seems to wheel out an insubstantial murder yarn to prop up some interesting pieces of logic and philosophy. This is a great shame; although fans of murder mysteries will still find something to enjoy in the twists and turns of the plot, and in particular the debates about the possibility of committing the perfect murder, so much is lost in the transition from page to screen that it will seem nothing but a disappointment to anyone who has read the book or wants something a bit more intellectual that a cheap Dan Brown knock-off.
The acting is also disappointing for what appears to be such a promising cast, but in all fairness the leaden dialogue does not give the actors a great deal to work with. Hurt makes a decent Arthur Seldom (although seems to be acting in his sleep for a good portion of the film - and who could blame him), but Wood (for all I usually like him) does not seem quite right as Martin and has no chemistry at all with his on-screen love interest Lorna (Leonor Watling). The scenes involving the two of them are at best unconvincing, and honestly, there is a love scene involving spaghetti that is downright embarrassing to watch. Martin comes across as dull, fundamentally unlikeable and unfeasible as a ladies' man (what does Lorna see in him?), and for a good deal of the film is not so much the brilliant student he is meant to be but rather a sounding board for Seldom's ideas. Worst of all, however, is poor Burn Gorman, left to overact as a fellow maths student is such a ridiculous way that you wonder just what his director asks of him. (Incidentally, this is the director's first English language film; I was not familiar with his other work, but it apparently has trademark black humour in it - notably absent from this production - so maybe something was lost in translation?). The structure of the film is also a little odd, with the story jumping from scene to scene quite abruptly and never really managing to flow smoothly, and it altogether gave the impression of being excessively over-edited for all that it uses the beauty of Oxford to good advantage. Perhaps this was to improve the sluggish pacing, but it just didn't work for me.
Ultimately, this film was dull and a huge disappointment. I think I would still have been disappointed if I had not read the book first, but the let down was all the greater for knowing how rich the source material was, as this really was a missed opportunity to produce a excellent thriller that was missed, however handsomely filmed it was. By the end it was hard to be fussed about who the killer was or why they were doing what they did, and the film didn't seem that bothered either, ending on yet another debate rather than with anything that would grab the attention. However much it tries to be a smart, edge-of-your-seat thriller it simply never makes it, as it is only mildly thrilling and not too smart. It simply never lives up to its potential and ended up a good story badly told, and so from me it is not recommended - read the novel instead.
A young American student Martin (Elijah Woods) comes to Oxford hoping to have brilliant logician Arthur Seldom (John Hurt) oversee his thesis. However, the latter has developed a disturbing reputation amongst his colleagues. But this does not prevent Martin from getting what he came for in the first place. He even chooses to lodge with Mrs. Eagleton, a close friend of Seldom, to gain more perspective about the legendary professor. But, Martin's hope of having Seldom as his tutor is slowly diminishing when the professor proves to be not only elusive but also has an arrogant quality when he purposely humiliates Martin in one of his lectures when the student tries to contradict with him.
A second chance encounter at the front gate of Mrs. Eagleton's house seals the bond that the two would share following a discovery of the old lady's murder. Who would want to do it to an ailing elderly? They don't have to look or think further for the murderer left a clue that indicates Mrs. Eagleton's murder is just the beginning. A surmounting mathematical analysis might just be the key to finding the perpetrator.
This movie is a plunge to the world of mathematical analysis beyond my meagre intelligence. While I was trying very hard to feel smart about the whole philosophical discourse that Martin and Seldom toss at each other, I honestly think a minimal use of heady wisdom won't cripple the movie. Based on the novel by Argentine mathematician Guillermo Martinez, this Alex dela Iglesia flick is thick with grand verbosity that it's more like a crash course on logic than a movie about murder. While, it might just stayed true to the book (I have not read the book), there isn't the benefit of going back to pages when something is too heavy to understand or digest. In a movie, your grasp of every scene should keep up with the speed of the events unfolding. It is not a fast movie by any chance, but the spew of wordy lines is, I assure you. The academic aspect can throw a viewer off.
My head was reeling from all of the profound analysis of theories by some of the most famous mathematicians in history. I have to squint hard and focus on the faces of the actors as if expecting for a more simple explanation to leap out from the screen. I'm afraid that those who are experts on this field might also find this a tad boring since they might expect a new presentation of philosophical knowledge rather than just presenting it like a lecturer would to his students. I believe this film can still create an intellectual ambiance even if it was not immersed in deep philosophical debates every time the two main characters are guessing what could be next. For one, the background is Oxford and for somebody who has only seen and heard about the grandiose of the place and its history, it is awe-inspiring. The aged architecture and the intensity of the location add charm to this somewhat slow movie. The brilliance of the mind displayed by some of the characters would have seemed improbable if it wasn't set here. The place really inspires intelligence and there is an eerie appeal to it that makes for a perfect location of a mathematical murder.
John Hurt as a mathematical genius plays the role well, in my opinion. He has that kind of weird look and mysterious persona that reflects well on the character he's playing. Honestly, I cannot recall his other movies but if his age means he has been in this business for a long time now, then I guess it comes as no surprise that he can do the job effortlessly. As he was giving lecture as Arthur Seldom in one of the great halls of the university, he commands attention and radiates cleverness.
Elijah Wood as Martin is also very effective. He has that wide-eyed curiosity of a student who is eager to learn from his mentor. The thing is, Martin is supposed to be a ladies' man but Elijah's innocent look cannot pull that off. His physique is not teeming with sex appeal (he is gorgeous, alright) but sex appeal here has really got something to do with sex. I was squirming in my seat as Martin engages in some steamy scenes. It's like watching a younger brother getting kinky with his girlfriend. Other actors younger than him have walked that path many times before and didn't look a bit awkward but blame Elijah's youthful look for it. We have watched this man (at least, I have) grow before our very eyes and this is an attempt to depart from his wholesome image. His love interest here looks too mature and more "experienced" than him. The pairing is off, although, Leonor Watling (as Lorna) is great and gorgeous. She will be offering more than her acting chops in this movie.
Also worthy of mention is Julie Cox (as Beth) as the landlady's miserable daughter. She's one of the reasons why Martin should have a powerful charisma because she too, falls for our hero.
Given the great performance of the cast and a few offerings of suspense, I wouldn't judge this completely as one to avoid. There's always something to look forward to in a "whodunit" kind of film that makes every body a suspect. Some scenes are meant to completely throw you off your guess, although, we're much too smart to fall for that, aren't we? The heat does build up towards the end. Mathematical symbols add a level of excitement to the chase. Although, the ending is not overly dramatic it still offers relief. While I don't agree with the result, the preceding relationship of certain characters will make you understand. Murder is not justifiable but in this case, you will be just too tired to argue. Do watch it if you have nothing else to do. Challenging it might be for you.
Elijah Wood ... Martin
John Hurt ... Arthur Seldom
Leonor Watling ... Lorna
Julie Cox ... Beth
Burn Gorman ... Podorov
Ana Massey ... Mrs. Eagleton
Jim Cater ... Inspector Petersen
Alan David ... Mr. Higgins
Dominique Pinon ... Frank
Tim Wallers ... Defence Lawyer
James Weber Brown ... Doctor
Ian Est ... Howard Green
Charlotte Asprey ... Mrs. Howard Green
Alex Cox ... Kalman
Tom Frederic ... Ludwig Wittgenstein
Directed by: Alex de la Iglesia