The problem with this film is that it is quite bad while still having some good acting, looking good, having pretty exciting camera work, and being fairly engrossing. The problem is, you may have been a victim of Faked Engrossment, since nothing pans out to justify such engrossment. I note that the British commentators here are even harder on it than the American ones, but surely a film that has no redeeming qualities (according to both factions) must have something going for it, so let's list some pluses and minuses: 1. The acting is terrific, but only if you are watching John Hurt, Anna Massey and Jim Carter. 2. The acting is dreadful, but only if you are watching Elijah Wood and Leonor Watling. 3. The acting reaches a new nadir of awfulness but only if you are watching Burn Gorman, the only actor I can recall who, seemingly without the aid of make-up, can give Lon Chaney Sr. a run for his money in the looks department, while simultaneously proving to be the legitimate heir of Tod Slaughter where acting style is concerned. 4. The Gorman role is pretty wild and flavorful, yet his character has no bearing on any aspect of the plot. He seems simply there to overact and scare children. 5. The film is set in 1993, with no reason or explanation given for that choice. 6. The Oxford police are the most all-embracing investigators in history, sharing every clue they get with an Oxford professor and student, having them share body viewings in the morgue, murder methods, etc. 7. The intellectual call on the viewer is much too much, with discussions of higher mathematics and philosophy so rarefied that most people will not be able to follow them (although we are assured by more than one British commentator that this stuff is taught them in their cradles; I knew American education lacked something, so I guess I now know what it is). 8. Except for the actors, the film seems to be totally Spanish-made by people who don't speak English (at least if the concluding bonus interviews are any indication), which does not augur well for a story and dialog that are so incredibly English and pseudo-intellectual in concept (although based on a Spanish novel). 9. There is use of obviously really retarded children as a plot device, which reflects credit on absolutely no one. 10. There are really good tracking shots of many of the actors, usually from behind and as they are in a rush to get somewhere, that gives some life to the production. 10. Everybody seems to dislike the Guy Fawkes celebration scene, but it is quite well-filmed, what with a big rooftop chase above while the festivities (including a full chamber orchestra) continue unabated be1ow. 11. Quite honestly, John Hurt seems to be having the time of his life in his role, and it is always enjoyable to watch a great actor enjoying himself (watch Olivier as Richard III for proof). 12. Good mystery stories need long films, as they require considerable set-ups for each character before the fun starts; this doesn't have one, and the characters arrive both fully-formed and fully explained. 13. The denouement is something of a smash-up, but I think I understood it. Still, in an age that thinks that Rap is music, I'm not certain other people would; they should have dumbed it down a little.
Okay, with all the above going for or against the film, I still found it totally enjoyable to watch. In fact, I'm going to watch it again this week. And then I'm going to watch it again and again and again, until I am sure I understand it. But a six rating, mostly for John Hurt and the photography.