Scott Cooper’s “The Pale Blue Eye” sports an intriguing premise and an absorbing mystery. Unfortunately, only one of these elements is developed to its full potential resulting in a passable film that could have been so much more. Based on the novel by Louis Bayard, the time is 1830, the location is the West Point Military Academy and the murder victim found on the grounds is cadet LeRoy Fry. Found hanging from a tree, his body is desecrated after being taken to the morgue, the victim’s heart cut from his chest. Desperate to catch the killer before he strikes again, the powers-that-be recruit Augustus Landor (Christian Bale), a widowed, retired police detective to crack the case. Unfortunately, his outsider status prevents him uncovering key bits of information, so he recruits one of the cadets to investigate his peers, one Edgar Allan Poe (Henry Melling).
Cooper and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi create a shadow-tinged world of constant dread that contributes to a sense of constant foreboding. As for the mystery, it proves captivating from beginning to end, its twists and turns logical and surprising, the denouement clever and haunting. Bale, as always, is captivating and Melling could build a career around portraying Poe, while the supporting cast, including Gillian Anderson, Toby Jones, Lucy Boynton, Timothy Spall and Robert Duvall provide the kind of solid support you’d expect from these veterans.
Adding an intriguing layer to the film are the allusions to Poe’s later works, subtly referred to via events that spring naturally from the story. Credited with inventing the mystery story, it is logical the events portrayed here would act at the impetus to do this. It’s no accident the detective he creates in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” C. Auguste Dupin, shares the same name as Bale’s character. And while we know Poe’s life was littered with tragic events surrounding women he loved, which prompted him to feature doomed heroines in many of his poems and stories, his relationship here with Lea Marquis (Lucy Boynton) references this to great dramatic effect. In the end, “Eye” proves to be not simply a captivating mystery but a rewarding exercise for those familiar with Poe’s works and inspirations.
3. 5 Stars
To read Pam’s 3.5-star review as published in The Daily Journal, go here: https://www.daily-journal.com/life/entertainment/reel-talk-the-pale-blue-eye-blurs-reality-and-fiction/article_52d605ce-8c6e-11ed-90fa-afab4984d672.html