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A woman is murdered in Oxford. Her body is discovered by two men, Arthur Seldom (John Hurt), a prestigious professor of logic, and Martin (Elijah Wood), a young graduate student who has just arrived at the university hoping to study with Seldom. It quickly becomes clear that this is the fi rst in a series of murders, all of which are announced by the murderer with strange mathematical symbols. Professor and student join forces to try and crack the code, and thus begins an elaborate puzzle, in which nothing is as it seems and the truth is elusive.
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At Oxford University the bonding of two men, the young graduate student from Arizona, Martin (Wood)and the embittered mathematics professor Arthur Seldom (Hurt) begins in a large class room where Seldom is lecturing. Martin from the audience challenges the professor's belief in the Ludwig Wittgenstein theory that there is no real truth. Fate seems to play a large part in this beautiful film, throwing the two men together-the young student and the elderly professor- in a series of circumstances that swallow them up for perhaps they are on the trail of a serial killer. The ending of this intellectual thriller after a series of red herrings is a surprise if not a shock.
"The Oxford Murders" is a very erudite film. Because the dialog moves swiftly and there is mention of so many obscure philosophers and theologians, bringing up the captions helps the viewer grasp the situation. Cryptic symbols and a series of natural looking deaths drive the plot and the viewer has to play close attention.
I found that looking up the "butterfly effect" helped me to better understand and appreciate the ending: a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere can initiate huge changes in conditions somewhere else, even on the other side of the world.
The editing was choppy and the directing was heavy handing, and the script was stilted and often obtuse. The original premise was very good and the a good mystery at its core....but they blew it. Don't waste your time - there are much better time-sinks out there
Those who went for the sex will hate it for the the intellectual pretentiousness as will those who went to see a movie with some depth.
The other actors are also uniformly very good, each eccentrically interacting to create the querky academic atmosphere at a high level research university, of which Oxford is the quintessential prototype. My only complaint is that Dame Maggie Smith does not appear in it.
This is one of my favorite movies of all time.
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If I could give it zero stars, I would.