Review of The Film “Pale Blue Eye”: Christian Bale Is Involved in a Terrible Murder Mystery


Edgar Allen Poe, the author of intricate stories of the early XIX century, such as “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Well and the Pendulum”, has long fascinated modern authors and directors. Perhaps it’s because he died at the age of 40 under strange circumstances, his last few days were as devilish a mystery as anything he came up with. Or simply that he is considered the father of detective story, long before Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie ever took up pen on paper.

In “Pale Blue Eye,” a majestic interpretation of Louis Bayard’s 2003 novel directed by Scott Cooper, Poe appears as a young cadet at West Point, the famous U.S. military academy in the Hudson Valley. The year is 1830, and one of the participants was found hanged. Even more disturbing is that the corpse was disturbed in the hospital room – the heart was cut out of the chest. The superintendent of the Academy (Timothy Spall) wants this terrible crime solved quickly and unnoticed.

Enter August Landor, an experienced detective, played by Christian Bale, who is tasked with investigating a murder. Stranger things are happening as farm animals are also being maimed. And those with whom Landor meets make strange statements: “A person will do almost anything to cheat death,” mutters Charlotte Gainsbourg’s bartender. It is in her tavern that Landor meets Poe, played with eccentric brilliance by former Harry Potter graduate Harry Melling, who is turning into a very good character actor these days (see the pearl of the Cohen brothers “The Ballad of the Scruggs Fighters”).

Everything in the Pale Blue Eye is fictional, except that Poe attended West Point when he was 21. According to Melling, this is a man before he became a writer, although the seeds have already been planted for someone who revels in the creepy. He mysteriously tells Landor that the culprit is a “poet”—presumably because cutting out an organ like the heart has some symbolic meaning. He is also partial to a drink or two, which is Landor’s weakness (he is told to investigate without drinking alcohol—the worst dry January imaginable).

Supported by Netflix and appearing on its platform this Friday (January 6), “Pale Blue Eye” seems like a curious movie for a streamer. It moves slower than a dormant snail, which can scare away those who can’t wait to fiddle with their phones or remote control. But don’t give up: This is a rich and rewarding trip, especially for those who enjoy stories immersed in the occult. Like a proto-Angelic Heart, this dark story mixes with satanic darkness.

Accordingly, it is also filled with eccentric minor characters. Like the legendary Robert Duval (“The Godfather”, “Apocalypse Now”), here he plays a learned connoisseur of symbols. Or Gillian Anderson, the former star of The X-Files, who played a piercing wife from high society, and Lucy Boynton from Bohemian Rhapsody in the role of her sick daughter. Cooper, who previously worked on the films “Enemies” and “Out of Hell” with Bale, sends them into an icy, fog-shrouded landscape that will give you chills no less than these crimes. This is not a movie for everyone, especially if you crave dynamic action. But for fans of the Software, it’s a terrible pleasure.


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