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The Pale Blue Eye Review

The Pale Blue Eye is the latest collaboration between Scott Cooper and Christian Bale about a gothic murder mystery in the 1800s.

71/100

Info: 

  • Run Time: 2 hours 8 minutes
  • Studio: Cross Creek Pictures
  • Director: Scott Cooper
  • Where to Watch: Netflix

Review: 

West Point Academy, 1830. A young cadet’s body is found in the woods near the academy with gruesome injuries. Desperate to keep the situation under control, the academy seeks out a retired detective who resides nearby. Detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called in to solve the grizzly murders and as he learns about the crime, he meets a quiet and macabre cadet named Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling) who becomes his informant and unofficial protege. Together, they must seek out the perpetrator and them from killing again.

Scott Cooper directs this two-hour Netflix original. Based on a novel of the same name by Louis Baynard, Cooper navigates the horror mystery genre with decent results. The story doesn’t really grab my attention as much as it could, and I don’t know if the blame belongs to the adaptation process or the source material. Things didn’t get exciting until the last 30 minutes, even though I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen but that’s because of the man behind the camera. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi captures northern New York in a very moody and melancholy way. Everything is gray and washed out except for where the action is. There wasn’t a vibrant color to be found anywhere except in a few key scenes. The camera work captures the intricate detail in the sets and props, while also showcasing the sweeping landscapes of New York.

Bale leads as Augustus Landor, the disgruntled retired master detective. His usual masterful delivery of the period-specific dialogue accompanied by his presence on screen creates a well-rounded performance (a much better script than Love and Thunder should do that). Cooper and Bale have worked together on previous movies including Out of the Furnace and Hostiles and this existing relationship seems to have reached a point where they have good chemistry together and could lead to something really excellent later on. I would like to see them working together again.

As for Harry Melling, he looks like a twenty-first-century Poe. Cooper said in an interview with David O. Russell on the DGA Podcast that the costume team accentuated his face by shaving his hairline back a bit and it is uncanny how simple of an idea that was. Melling’s performance wasn’t as nuanced as Bale’s, but that is a tough act to follow for literally anybody. I do think Cooper could have directed some OTHER type of accent that came through as less Southern Plantation owner and more early New Englander. It was jarring at times and passable at others. Something a little more subtle would have worked better.

The Pale Blue Eye is a middle-of-the-road Netflix original. Frequent collaborators Christian Bale and director Scott Cooper bring this fictional origin story for the master of the macabre to the small screen. It looks and feels great, but feels rather hollow in every other department. Bale and Harry Melling comprise the dynamic duo and make a great pairing, but there just isn’t enough screen time with them together. It is an incredibly slow burn that doesn’t pick up until the last 30-ish minutes. It’s a decent way to spend two hours, but it’s not going to be the best murder mystery whodunnit you’ve ever seen either.

Dylan M.
Dylan M.

Dylan created Movies Not Films as a fun project to stay occupied during the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He started with a simple movie diary on a spreadsheet and eventually transformed it into MoviesNotFilms.com with a robust catalog of reviews, suggestions, and ranking lists. Currently living with his now-fiancé and two dogs, Dylan has a full-time career but still makes time to watch all the latest movies and most of the new TV shows.

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