Christian Bale stars in the new mystery film involving one of literature's most iconic writers. The Pale Blue Eye is the new production based on the novel written by Louis Bayard that will arrive on one of the most popular streaming platforms in recent years.
The story tells how a world-weary detective is hired to investigate the murder of a West Point cadet. Confronted with the cadets' code of silence, he recruits one of them to help him unravel the case: a young man the world would come to know as Edgar Allan Poe.
It was written, directed and produced by Scott Cooper. During an interview, the director said that the idea for the feature film came after wondering what the writer had been like in his youth. For this reason, he intended to show a plot that imagined Poe's early days as a police cadet.
Netflix's first 2023 movie The Pale Blue Eye gets the year off to a chilly start with several mutilations, lashings of Gothic mood and one big reveal that will leave you questioning long into the credits.
Based on the book by Louis Bayard, the movie takes us back to 1830 at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. A cadet has been found dead after a supposed hanging, but doubts are raised that it was suicide when it's discovered that his heart has been removed post-mortem.
In an attempt to protect its reputation, the academy leaders turn to esteemed local detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) to solve the murder. Landor, in turn, enlists the help of outcast cadet Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling) – yes, the famous writer – to uncover the truth from the inside.
But can the unlikely duo unravel the gruesome case before another cadet becomes the target of the killer?
Technically, The Pale Blue Eye marks the second murder-mystery released by Netflix in as many weeks, following Glass Onion. However, the two movies couldn't be further apart in their approach to the genre and if you're expecting a twisty Glass Onion-esque romp, then you're watching the wrong Netflix movie.
Writer-director Scott Cooper – working with Bale on their third movie together following Out of the Furnace and Hostiles – likes to take his time telling this lurid tale. It won't be a surprise for anyone who has seen Cooper's work, but anyone else coming fresh could find proceedings too measured for its own good.
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Luckily, the world that Cooper has crafted with production designer Stefania Cella is visually striking. You'll feel like wrapping up warm as you watch The Pale Blue Eye, fully immersed in the stark Gothic surroundings of the academy.
christian bale, the pale blue eye
On the big screen (the movie received a limited cinema release), you'd savour being in that beautifully-realised world, however slow the plot progresses. At home though, you might find your attention wandering as the investigation deals more in discussions of mortality than twisty revelations.
Christian Bale and Harry Melling make for an engaging lead double act though, with Melling given the showier role as Poe and Bale typically intense as the dour Landor. It's a flamboyant turn from Melling, complete with Southern accent and plenty of Poe-esque florid language that gives the movie a lightness it sorely lacks elsewhere.
There's a lot of recognisable faces among the supporting cast, although none of them really manage to make an impact. Gillian Anderson comes closest with a theatrical performance as Julia Marquis, but the movie would have been better served spending more time developing the characters than adding another 'Landor brooding' scene.
gillian anderson, toby jones, the pale blue eye
The Pale Blue Eye appears to wrap up naturally with around 30 minutes to go, but it's here where the movie pulls the rug out from under you. Everything has been so understated to this point that the major revelation comes out of nowhere, but it leaves you questioning its logic rather than marvelling at the audacity.