The Oxford Murders (4 stars)

The Oxford Murders

(15) 104min


Having graduated from the kitsch sci-fi satire of Acción mutante and the heavy metal horror of The Day of the Beast to the Hitchcockian black comedies Common Wealth and Ferpect Crime, Bilbao-born filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia turns his hand to the English crime tale with this intriguing murder mystery.

Based on the novel by Spanish writer Guillermo Martinez (penned very much in the spirit of Agatha Christie, PD James et al), the plot revolves around the discovery of the body of an old lady (Anna Massey) simultaneously by the marvellously monikered Arthur Seldom (John Hurt), a prestigious professor of logic at the famous university, and Martin (Elijah Wood), a newly arrived overseas student hoping to study under the prof. When a second body is discovered in suspicious circumstances it becomes clear to Seldom and Martin that this is the beginning of a series of murders and that the strange mathematical symbols that accompany the corpses are part of an elaborate puzzle they’re being invited to solve.

As mysteries go, Iglesia’s English language debut is pleasingly challenging to crack. Just as the twin protagonists rack their highly educated brains for a solution only to develop ever more complex theories, so too the film works to confound the viewer with increasingly complicated plotting before all is revealed in the far from obvious dénouement. The relatively simple style in which the piece is made (gone are Iglesia’s Hitchcockian flourishes) might mean The Oxford Murders plays like an episode of Midsomer Murders (albeit it a particularly good one), but that approach serves to emphasis the absorbing plot and the quality performances from a decent cast, which also includes English-Spanish actress Leonor Watling, British Marple/Poirot alumni Julie Cox and (in a nice cameo) Spain-ofile filmmaker Alex Cox.

General release from Fri 25 Apr.

Oxford Murders

  • 4 stars
  • 2008
  • Spain / France
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Álex de la Iglesia
  • Cast: Elijah Wood, John Hurt, Leonor Watling, Julie Cox

Professor Arthur Seldom (John Hurt) and student Martin (Wood) simultaneously discover the body of an old lady (Massey) and become entangled in solving an elaborate puzzle of strange deaths. This Mexican/Spanish but essentially English crime tale plays like an episode of 'Midsomer Murders' (albeit it a particularly good…