The Pale Blue Eye tells a story filled with dark mysteries equal to the dark atmosphere of its gloomy winter setting. These dark elements filled with the sheer brutality of the murders that take place at West Point, make for the perfect environment to use as the backdrop of an Edgar Allen Poe origin story. Everything that writer and director Scott Cooper sets out to do in this murderous introduction to the world famous poet, he achieves. The ending admittedly I never saw coming and is revealed in such a strong manner, the world itself is built strongly, and everything on the technical level- makes this feel stronger than other 'first movie releases of the year' that we've seen prior. Yet it never fully sucked me into the gothic story it was telling.
After a gruesome murder at the United States Military Academy West Point, detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) sets out to solve the crime. Soon after he's joined by a young cadet, Edgar Allen Poe (Henry Melling). As the two work to solve the increasing number of murders at the academy, they find themselves falling further and further into a world of the occult and darker forces at play.
Our two leads of Bale and Melling are so strong together. They both bring these characters to life and there's a genuine level of intrigue and respect shared between the two. If you had told me that Dudley Dursley would be the member of Harry Potter to go out and take the most risky roles and have arguably the most fascinating career path, I'd never have believed you. Yet, it's Melling playing the legendary poet, who steals the spotlight every moment that he's on screen. He not only succeeds in his moment in the sun, but thrives with the spotlight on him. There's never a moment anyone else on camera took my focus the way that he does. Bale is his same grounded self, he never phones it in, and once again here he delivers a performance that will have you losing him into another new character. The rest of the ensemble does a fine enough job, but it's a heavy lifting by these two as they bring the most well written characters to life.
The cinematography and technical areas both were pleasant, we get the perfect gothic era wintery setting to tell the story in. The score is there enough noticeable to set the tone but never taking away from the story being untold. There were times I wish I could've seen what was happening on camera a little bit better but other than that we had some strong technical moments for the film.
Unfortunately for all those strong things including a mostly strong script, not everything worked for me. While the film was filled with a number of twists that I didn't see coming, there was not enough for me outside of the performances to really hold my grasp- and attention, for those twists to be rewarding. As well, the more that we went into this dark underbelly world of the occult and the murders became the side story- the more and more I could feel my interest slipping from what was happening. After all, both elements are vital for our final act- but the pull on the one, completely unteathered the story for the other- and it led to a watch where I felt satisfied with the elements, but never enthralled with what I was watching happen in front of me.
The Pale Blue Eye is now streaming on Netflix and there's enough elements to like that maybe on your watch you'll find yourself enjoying the full story more.