‘The Pale Blue Eye’ Review- A Gothic Mystery With Poe Vibes

The Pale Blue Eye is written and directed by Scott Cooper. He also co-produced it with actor Christian Bale, this being their third film collaboration. The movie received a very limited theatrical run before it had its global premiere on the Netflix streaming service.

Widowed private investigator Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is grieving his vanished daughter Mattie (Hadley Robinson). He is asked by the military to investigate the death of Cadet Leroy Fry (Steven Maier). At first, the alcoholic detective is indifferent, but upon learning the cadet’s heart was stolen from the morgue, he agrees. He encounters Cadet Edgar A. Poe (Harry Melling) who is ignored by the Academy’s staff including Superintendent Thayer (Timothy Spall), Captain Hitchcock (Simon McBurney), and Dr. Marquis (Toby Jones). Landor has Poe infiltrate Leroy’s friends’ group led by Cadet Artemus Marquis (Harry Lawtey) and his ill sister Lea (Lucy Boynton). As the unlikely duo investigates, a second victim is targeted and this one too has a missing heart. With the West Point officers growing frustrated, Landor becomes to wonder if something more sinister is haunting the walls.

I know this film is based on a 2006 novel by author Louis Bayard. Unfortunately, I have not read it, so I cannot compare it to the source material. As such, I will simply be reviewing as a work of cinema.

As an avid reader of Edgar Allen Poe, I could see how the undertones of his gothic fiction influenced the plot and the cinematography. It is muted in grays with colors only appearing to emphasize a moment in time, much like his work. Even the title is taken from a line from “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Cooper did a good job of mixing in Poe’s work without it becoming drowning and not so minute that you did not notice, if you are a reader. He crafts an intriguing mystery that pulls you into it, with its depth of character, scenery, and even the musical being pitch-perfect.

If I could make one note, the twist ending was good, but I felt it needed a bit to be earned a bit. It was not bad, did not feel forced, and it was not that I did not like it. Honestly, it just needed a bit more of a connection to the beginning of the movie.

As for the acting, everyone does a good job. Christian Bale is on key from the very beginning and truly shows his range as an actor. Harry Melling makes for a compelling Poe and brings out his anxieties and was believable as an early version of the American poet. Robert Duvall and Charlotte Gainsbourg have smaller roles, but they too make formidable appearances in the film.

Bottom line, The Pale Eye Blue is a true gothic mystery that perfectly mixes in its Edgar Allen Poe influence. It also features truly excellent performances from its cast and dynamite writing from its director.

PARENTAL CONCERNS: Minor foul language, Gruesome images, Violence, Disturbing images and topics

FAVORITE QUOTE: The man you are looking for is a poet.

Check out the trailer below:

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my reviews of Everything Everywhere All At Once and The Good Nurse. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.

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