Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 2022
Directed by
Scott Cooper
128 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Pale Blue Eye

Whilst both films are whodunnits, Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye is at the other end of the spectrum from Rian Johnson’s recently released Glass Onion, being more candle-lit lucubration than bling-ring razzamatazz, more Sherlock Holmes than Agatha Christie.  

Based on the solid foundations of a novel by Louis Bayard and adapted by Cooper, embodied in a spare production design that calls on the skills of tip-top costume design and art direction departments and superbly photographed by Masanobu Takayanagi who has shot the film virtually entirely in the gray scale, the only accent of colour being the blood red in which the tile is written, it is a film that will appeal to the more literary-minded than audiences looking for some light escapism.

Christian Bale plays Augustus Landor, a renowned retired detective and widowed father of a daughter from whom, for reasons unexplained, he is estranged. He lives alone  in a stone cottage not far the only recently established West Point Military Academy in New York’s Hudson Valley. When a cadet is found hanged and with his heart cut out he is called to investigate. He has not been on the case long when he is approached by the to-be famous Edgar Allen Poe who advised him to look for someone who traffics in symbols - such as poet. Landor is intrigued by the young man’s take on things and enlists his help in solving the murder, as a kind of Watson to Landor’s Holmes.

The inclusion of the real-life Poe (he was in fact a West Point cadet for a time is particularly who lend a frisson of meta-level pleasure as Poe is credited with introducing both the detective novel (including an interest in cryptography) and the horror and fantasy genres to American literature (hence the raven which features prominently mid-screen about half-way into the film.

Poe is portrayed wonderfully by Melling, who was so memorable in the Coen’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018). His performance here which similarly calls on his expressive talents will no doubt be his ticket to larger roles, albeit probably of a historical nature. Bale, of course we need not worry about. Landor’s dry melancholy and borderline insolence, suggestive of a deeply hidden sorrow, perfectly suits his skill set (he was also a co-producer). The interlocution between them that provides the narrative’s clever resolution is one of the best scenes of the film whilst also adding a depth to what might have otherwise been a rather conventional and underwhelming ending to the mystery.

The support cast is very good particularly Toby Jones as the Academy’s doctor and Gillian Anderson as his highly-strung wife together with Timothy Spall and Simon McBurney as the institutions heads. Oddly enough Robert Duvall turns up as a occultist with an unconvincing French accent.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst