The Pale Blue Eye
In 1830's West Point, NY, a retired detective is called in to help solve what appears to be a ritualistic murder.
Spoiler Level: None
The Pale Blue Eye is a mystery thriller based off the 2003 novel of the same name by Louis Bayard. The story takes place in 1830 and involves Augustus Landor (Christian Bale), a brilliant, retired veteran detective, who is called into service by West Point Military Academy when a cadet is found hanging from a tree and later in the morgue his body is disfigured. Through the investigation he receives assistance and becomes friends with Edgar Allen Poe (Harry Melling) who is also a West Point Cadet. As the plot progresses, dark intentions are unveiled as another cadet is killed and disfigured, and a third disappears.
Edgar Allen Poe is credited with creating the “modern detective” story with his story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and the creation of his detective character C. Auguste Dupin who uses logic to solve mysteries. So it is by no accident that the lead in The Pale Blue Eye is named Augustus and becomes like a father figure to Poe. I love characters like Landor, who are ahead of their time, brilliant, with a kind of sage understanding of the human psyche who use their awesome powers of deduction to solve unsolvable crimes. The problem with this film is we don’t see enough of the detective detecting. The movie is stylistically beautiful with wonderfully creepy yet stunningly gorgeous visuals. The entire production is very well crafted. The story is intriguing, and it kept my interest the entire time, but there wasn’t enough emphasis put on the actual following and explanation of the clues that were found. The dialogue has a kind of poetic sound to it which is beautiful, but also makes connecting to characters difficult at times.
Christian Bale does a wonderfully nuanced performance as Landor whose wife has died, and daughter ran away giving him a sadness which is palpable. This longing for family and kinship he feels towards Poe is a driving force within the film, but there is also an air of mystery mixed in with sadness. I have mixed feelings over Harry Melling’s performance as Edgar, at times it appeared over the top with a bit too much animation and not quite genuine, but at other times there is a depth to his character that gives him his intensity that binds the audience to him and helps them connect. There is also something appropriately creepy about the character but also strikingly endearing.
I have not read the source material so cannot compare the movie to the novel, but overall, I really enjoyed the film, it kept me intrigued and there were several twists and turns keeping the plot interesting. The problem is, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. This is a case where my expectation of the film was greater than the film itself which left me with a feeling of disappointment.
The Pale Blue Eye was released in theatres in late December and is available for streaming on Netflix starting January 6th, 2023. The film is atmospherically and visually stunning, with some great performances, but left me a bit underwhelmed on some of the procedural elements.
The Pale Blue Eye: Looking Deep
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Acting - 9/109/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 10/1010/10
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