The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

The Pale Blue Eye
Director: Scott Cooper
Writer: Scott Cooper
Based on: Louis Bayard‘s novel
Cast: Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Harry Lawtey, Fred Hechinger, Joey Brooks, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lucy Boynton, Robert Duvall, Gillian Anderson
Seen on: 23.3.2023

Content note: (mention of) rape

Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) had a successful career as a detective, but he has since withdrawn to live a remote life. But when a cadet dies under mysterious circumstances at the military academy not far from him, he is asked to investigate the murder. He makes little headway at first, but there is one cadet who seems as interested in finding out who the killer is – Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling). Enlisting Poe’s help to get some inside information on the cadets, Landor starts to get somewhere.

The Pale Blue Eye is a decent historical crime movie, but it is not quite good enough to convince me – a non-fan of the genre. If this is more up your alley, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it, though.

The film poster showing Augustus Landor (Christian Bale). His body is semi-transparent and we can see the silhouette of a smaller figure holding up a glowing lantern through it.

I think it’s quite interesting that Poe inspired more than one person to make him a detective – I don’t think that there is much basis in fact for that particular spin on things. Contrary to The Raven, The Pale Blue Eye is a pretty decent movie, though. And according to the Poe Museum, Melling does a pretty decent job of portraying Poe, so there’s definitely that.

Personally, I was a little disappointed, though. I watched the film mostly for Christian Bale (since I didn’t know that Gillian Anderson was in it – when I saw that, I also watched it for her), and Landor takes a back seat to Poe pretty quickly. Probably not surprising, but I still would have liked the film to stick with Landor more, especially since Bale gave him a rather unusual for this type of role warmth and humor that I found extremely engaging.

Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) talking to Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling) who is wearing a uniform and posted on guard.

For a good while, the plot kept me interested, although I had to keep rolling my eyes at the perfunctory inclusion of the few women there are in the film. But when it came to the solution of it all, the film lost me, and not just a little. Not only is a woman’s tragedy used as a male backstory yet again, but the revelations didn’t make much sense to me. The film seems to want to surprise us a little too much, forgetting that it should consider the story from all perspectives, not just the audience’s.

I assume that genre fans will maybe fall more into the rhythm of the story, and maybe not mind the tropey ending all that much. But I couldn’t really look past it, so I can give the film a middling grade only.

Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) standing in the forest, hat in hand.

Summarizing: it’s okay.

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