It was Saturday evening and there was nothing on regular TV to watch, so I had the choice of Glass Onion or The Pale Blue Eye. I wanted a well-crafted murder mystery, with an interesting story, well-directed, and made by a competent movie director, so of course, I put up The Pale Blue Eye. The story is:
“A world-weary detective is hired to investigate the murder of a West Point cadet. Stymied by the cadets’ code of silence, he enlists one of their own to help unravel the case – a young man the world would come to know as Edgar Allan Poe.”
It stars Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lucy Boynton, Robert Duvall, and Gillian Anderson. The casting was odd since most of the leading players are British, but the movie is set in the US, with them doing accents.
The movie is directed by Scott Cooper, known for Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges, Black Mass with Johnny Depp, Hostiles with Bale, and most recently, Antlers with Keri Russell. I have seen the last one and remembered it was… OK.
I can’t go too much into the story of The Pale Blue Eye, as that would spoil it, but it is a really well-told story. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Louis Bayard. Cooper wrote the adaptation and was listed as the screenwriter.
The movie starts with a hanging, an apparent suicide at a military college in the 1830s. Augustus Landor, played by Bale, is asked to come in. Not because of the suicide, but because someone broke into where the body was kept and cut out the heart. Foul play is afoot.
While there, he meets up with Cadet E. A. Poe, played by Melling, and they investigate what is actually going on. This is all I will say about the story, but it is very, very well written. It had me guessing all the way through and had a very satisfying ending.
In fact, I would have to say the ending to The Pale Blue Eye is a “chef’s kiss” of an ending, since it ties things up perfectly and leaves you very pleased that you watched the entire thing.
The direction is excellent and very subtle. The entire tone of the movie reminded me of The Prestige, which has an interesting story and characters to follow, all set against the backdrop of the 19th century US.
The cast is good. Bale is more low-key in this one, whereas Melling is much more animated as the slightly eccentric Poe. As I said, it’s weird to see most of the British actors doing an American accent, but they are all good actors so you don’t really notice.
I’ve said before, I’m not really big on murder mysteries, but when they are done right they are a treat to watch and The Pale Blue Eye is a treat to watch. It’s an original IP, with a great cast and highly recommended.