The Oxford Murders (film)

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The Oxford Murders
The Oxford Murders poster.jpg
American theatrical release poster
Directed by Álex de la Iglesia
Produced by Gerardo Herrero
Álvaro Augustín
Mariela Besuievsky
Screenplay by Jorge Guerricaechevarria
Álex de la Iglesia
Story by Guillermo Martínez (novel)
Starring Elijah Wood
John Hurt
Leonor Watling
Julie Cox
Music by Roque Baños
Studio Telecinco Cinema
Tornasol Films
La Fabrique de Films
Distributed by Odeon Sky Filmworks (UK)
Magnolia Pictures (US)
Release dates
  • 18 January 2008 (2008-01-18)
Running time 108 minutes
Country Spain
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $14.1 million

The Oxford Murders is a 2008 film directed by Álex de la Iglesia. This thriller film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Argentine mathematician and writer Guillermo Martínez. The film stars Elijah Wood, John Hurt and Spanish actress Leonor Watling.

Mathematical and philosophical references[edit]

The characters debate several mathematical, physical and philosophical concepts such as logical series, Wittgenstein's rule-following paradox, Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty, Gödel's Theorem, circles, the Vesica Piscis, the possibility of perfect crime, Fermat's Last Theorem and its proof by Professor Wiles, the Taniyama conjecture, the tetraktys and the Pythagoreans. There are references, also, of the Butterfly effect.

Artistic license[edit]

"Logic series" is not actually an established topic in mathematical logic or mathematics. Contrary to what Seldom states in his lecture at the beginning of the film, the argument of Wittgenstein's Tractatus does not actually proceed by the use of equations (with the exception of a few simple equations in Wittgenstein's introduction of the truth tables) and it is not expressed in the formal language of mathematical logic; the argument is rather a philosophical argument expressed in normal, albeit idiosyncratic, language.

Moreover, Professor Andrew Wiles, who solved Fermat's Last Theorem, is represented as "Professor Wilkes" of Cambridge University in the film, and Fermat's Last Theorem is represented as "Bormat's Last Theorem".

Contrary to a statement made early in the film, electromechanical computers (namely the "Bomba") played a crucial role in the breaking of the German "Enigma" cipher by british (and earlier, polish) cryptographers during WW2.



Filming at the White Horse pub, Oxford, 22 March 2007.

The film is a Spanish-British-French production directed by Spanish Álex de la Iglesia. Before the confirmation of Elijah Wood in the film, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal had been considered for the role of the mathematics student. There were some weeks of speculation on who would play the lead. On 26 December 2006 Tornasol Films announced that Wood was cast in the lead role. de la Iglesia commented that he convinced Wood to accept the role for the script. De la Iglesia also praised Wood: "I'm delighted to work with Elijah, who undoubtedly has the most powerful eyes in the industry and who is perfect for the part".[1]

British actor John Hurt was cast in the role of a professor of the university, who helps the young student in his quest to try to stop a series of murders.[2] Actor Michael Caine had been considered for this role.[3]

De la Iglesia described daily in his blog the peculiar situations that happened during the production of the film. The film is his first foray outside his typical black comedy genre into more dramatic fare.[4][5][6][7]

Filming began on 22 January 2007 and finished on 24 March, with locations in Oxford and the Cast Courts of the Victoria and Albert Museum of London.[8]


It was picked up for UK release by Odeon Sky Filmworks, opening on 25 April 2008, and had a DVD release in the UK on 1 September 2008. However in the US, it was not picked up for release until 2010, with VOD set for 2 July 2010 and also theatres on 6 August 2010, distributed by Magnolia Pictures.[9]

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc versions of the film were released on 5 October 2010.


The Oxford Murders received mostly negative reviews. David Lewis, a critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote that despite the fact that "there were plenty of talented people involved", the film had a "clunky script" and was "just plain boring, from beginning to end".[10] Jonathan Holland from Variety was less critical, calling the film a "polished but verbose whodunit", though he found fault with the dialogue and the romantic subplot.[11] The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 10%.[12] Geoffrey Pullum, a professor of linguistics, wrote a scathing review.[13]


  1. ^ Blasfemando en el vórtice del universo Alex de la Iglesia's blog.
  2. ^ pictures of Elijah Wood and John Hurt filming the movie in London.
  3. ^ preview of The Oxford Murders on
  4. ^ De la Iglesia inicia el rodaje de 'Los crímenes de Oxford'.
  5. ^ noticias
  6. ^ Eurimages gives coin to 'Oxford' - Entertainment News, Web Exclusive, Media - Variety
  7. ^ Wood joins suspects in 'Murders'
  8. ^ A review from Language Log
  9. ^ Magnolia Pictures Announces Release Plans for 'The Oxford Muders'
  10. ^ David Lewis, review of "The Oxford Murders", in the San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 2010.
  11. ^ Jonathan Holland, review of "The Oxford Murders", in Variety, January 29, 2008 (February 4 in print).
  12. ^ Rotten Tomatoes, "The Oxford Murders, accessed August 14, 2011.
  13. ^ [1], in Language Log, May 19, 2008.

External links[edit]