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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Hamish MacBain

A Murder at the End of the World review: silly whodunnit gets in the way of compelling Gen Z romance

We have, in recent times, borne witness to the birth of a new screen cliché: that being 'disparate set of individuals show up at the remote abode of a maniacal rich genius type who starts messing with them to the extent that they all go crazy and bad stuff starts to happen'.

Film-wise, among many others, there’s been Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and The Menu. On the smaller screen, among many others, Nine Perfect Strangers, Devs and now A Murder At The End Of The World.

Our host for the seven episodes here is an Elon/Steve Jobs-style tech billionaire eccentric named Andy (Clive Owen). He has summoned the rest of the cast – all of whom he considers to be leaders in their fields – to a summit at his futuristic mansion in Iceland where they will figure out how to save the world.

He says things like: “You do understand that any illness I may or may not have would throw the world’s economy into a total spin?” Or when things start getting bad: “I’m a king, Darby! And they want my head so they can take my kingdom.”

Darby, played by Emma Corrin, is our protagonist. She has pink hair, is a hacker and solves – or used to solve – unsolved murders with her partner-slash-lover that she met online called Bill, played by Harris Dickinson. (Quick side note: I’m not by any means a Gen Z bedroom teen recluse who spends their time online talking to other Gen Z bedroom teen recluses, but I bet if I was, the people I met would look more like Dominic Cummings than Harris Dickinson or Emma Corrin).

I say “used to solve” because – although via flashbacks we see the pair’s relationship blossom – when Darby shows up to Andy’s mansion she hasn’t seen Bill for years… except, unsurprisingly, Bill has also been invited. Once everyone has arrived, one of the guests is killed in mysterious circumstances, leaving Darby to figure out who did it.

The strongest scenes here by far are those flashbacks in which the younger Bill and Darby first meet and start sleuthing together. Corrin and Dickinson imbue them with real outsider cool, and the way they slowly start to fall in love is believably strange and very compelling.

When we get to the Icelandic mansion, though, it’s all quite silly: people popping up in ghost masks on room-entry cameras, cartoonishly awkward meals, people straight-facedly saying “The billionaires’ largesse is a venus flytrap”. Owen here feels somewhat miscast – his many tantrums are funny rather than unsettling – while the other guests never get particularly interesting despite having walked on the moon and things like that.

You’re left wishing that Corrin/Dickinson’s Natural Born Hackers story – which at times recalls Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell in Bones And All – was the primary focus here. Because the whodunnit aspect makes A Murder at the End of The World, despite the lavish visuals, start to feel quite generic. The twists, when they arrive, do not feel particularly shocking.

Plus: doesn’t ‘the story of two Gen Z outcasts who meet online, fall in love and solve the murders that the police have given up on’ sound like a much more exciting and original premise anyway?

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