The Pale Blue Eye (Movie Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film

SUMMARY

A murder mystery set at the West Point Military Academy that teams up veteran detective Augustus Landor with Cadet Edgar Allan Poe, who was actually enrolled at the time in which the story was set, as they attempt to solve the brutal killings of two other Cadets.

Estimated reading time: 19 minutes

The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

Given a mostly English cast in The Pale Blue Eye, writer-director Scott Cooper teams up for the third time with character-actor par excellence Christian Bale who assumes the leading role of Detective Augustus Landor hired by West Point Military Academy to investigate the grisly murder of Cadet Leroy Fry (Matt Heim) whose body was found hanging from a tree and, later in the doctor’s surgery suite, had its heart savagely removed. The only clue is the small piece of a handwritten note that was found clutched in the dead man’s hand. Landor gets Cadet Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Meiling) to help him find the killer. Shortly thereafter, the body of  Cadet Randolph Ballinger (Fred Hechinger) is found in the forest, again with its heart ripped out.

During the investigation, Landor and Poe focus on Dr. Daniel Marquis (Toby Jones) who autopsied Fry, and his family: beautiful daughter Lea (Lucy Boynton) who has a seizure disorder, son Artemus (Harry Lawley), and off-kilter wife Julia (Gillian Anderson). Something about these killings suggests that they may have been part of a black magic ritual to help cure Lea’s epilepsy. As the investigation proceeds, Landor’s tragic backstory is revealed. His wife died two years earlier and more recently his beloved daughter Mattie (Hadley Robinson) allegedly ran away from home.

  • Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Toby Jones and Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Timothy Spall in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Toby Jones in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Gillian Anderson in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Gillian Anderson in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Lucy Boynton in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Toby Jones and Gillian Anderson in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Gillian Anderson in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Toby Jones and Gillian Anderson in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Toby Jones and Gillian Anderson in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Timothy Spall and Toby Jones in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale and Charlotte Gainsbourg in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale and Harry Melling in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye (2022)
  • The Pale Blue Eye. Christian Bale as Augustus Landor in The Pale Blue Eye. Cr. Scott Garfield/Netflix © 2022
  • The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

Edgar has become enamored of Lea and this infatuation puts his life in danger as it appears that he may soon become the third victim in what may be the work of a serial killer.  Although Landor saves Edgar and seems to have wrapped up the case, there is a major and unexpected plot twist waiting in the wings that is propelled by the young Cadet’s highly perceptive detective work.

Based on Louis Bayard’s novel of the same name, Cooper’s film digs deeply into West Point history where Edgar Allan Poe was once briefly enrolled in 1830. Harry Meiling does a nice job of portraying this effete young man who reads romantic poetry to the lovely Lea—the title comes from one such ode—and who was an obvious target for bullying by his fellow cadets. But this is really Christian Bale’s show and he turns in yet another strong performance as an aging loner who has lost his family and, with little to live for, drinks heavily and gets an occasional roll in the sack with barmaid Patsy (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

Bale is supported by superb actors including the diminutive Toby Jones as the head of a dysfunctional family, a gaunt-appearing Timothy Spall as Academy Superintendent Thayer, a nearly unrecognizable Gillian Anderson, and a brief cameo appearance by nonagenarian Robert Duvall who plays Jean-Pepe, an expert on the occult that Landor consults during his investigation.

My biggest problem with this gothic-style murder mystery was its rather bland finale which drops the film’s previously taut pulse and replaces it with wordy dialogue rather than the well-paced action that preceded it. That reservation aside, most viewers will enjoy this film for what it has to offer in its uniformly strong performances rather than for what it lacks in some of its storyline. Recommended.


The Pale Blue Eye is streaming now on Netflix


  • Rating Certificate: R (for some violent content and bloody images)
  • Studios & Distributors: Cross Creek Pictures | Grisbi Productions | Streamline Global Group | Netflix
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Run Time: 128 Mins.
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Director: Scott Cooper
  • Written By: Scott Cooper
  • Release Date: 6 January 2023
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A murder mystery set at the West Point Military Academy that teams up veteran detective Augustus Landor with Cadet Edgar Allan Poe, who was actually enrolled at the time in which the story was set, as they attempt to solve the brutal killings of two other Cadets. The Pale Blue Eye (Movie Review)
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