Pale Blue Eye hits theaters December 23rd before streaming on Netflix January 6th.
Scott Cooper is one of the best performance directors working right now, but he’s a very boring storyteller. Like many of his previous films (crazy HeartAnd the out of the ovenAnd the Black mass, to name a few), The Pale Blue Eye carries little tension, meaning, or effective drama, despite its superficial appeal. Set at the United States Military Academy in 1830, based on Louis Bayard’s 2003 book of the same name, it follows widowed detective Gus Landor (Christian Bale), who explores information about a murder mystery with the help of a young cadet, Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Mealing). ). However, the outline of this hypothesis is about as interesting as it gets.
A heavy 128 minutes starts in the dead of winter. A white sheet covers the skeletal trees of New York State, courtesy of cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (a frequent Cooper collaborator, despite his work on Joe Carnahan’s Glacier Survivor. Gray good comparison). When Landor is summoned to West Point by his superior officers, he is unwilling, though his reluctance is quickly put aside so that the film can present his story of the occult in the 19th century. A young soldier has been found hanged under mysterious circumstances, and to make things even stranger, his heart has been cut out from his chest.
Like the lead of any good detective story, Landor discovers clues that no one else sees, though he only has so much access to the inner workings of the Academy. Therefore, he secretly enlists the help of Private Poe, a not-yet-famous author and poet (who was, in fact, recruited at the time). Bo is eager to help, though he expresses it in roundabout ways; He’s an even more embarrassing eccentric than the alcoholic womanizer in Bayard’s novel (and real life). Landor, on the other hand, is calm and direct, but what thematically connects the two men is their shared sense of loss. Poe claims, in appropriately poetic fashion, to be guided by the spirit of his late mother, while Landor also experiences a loss of personality, though he plays his emotions close to his chest.
However, beyond the occasional dialogue exchange, the film’s spirituality rarely comes to the fore. The film effectively creates an atmosphere on the surface, with a requisite frozen look and an eerie score from composer Howard Shore. But its narrative and aesthetic never leave the literal realm, despite dealing with occult themes, a haunted hero, and *checking notes* America’s most famous author of terrible. Instead, it oscillates from scene to scene with no rhythm or momentum, building a mystery that rarely feels mysterious because so few of the pieces other than Landor and Poe ever play. He lacks a sense of possibility. As the real Poe once said, quoting Francis Bacon: “There is no great beauty without some eccentricity of proportion.”
The Pale Blue Eye has an effective supporting cast, including Simon McBurney, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson, Timothy Spall as one of the West Point characters, and Robert Duvall in a brief but welcome appearance as Landour’s longtime partner. But none of these characters have enough presence or influence to make a meaningful difference to either the man or the overall plot. Landor and Poe pick up minor clues from time to time, guessing inferences about the other students from the torn diary pages and various interviews they give. But it takes an intimidatingly long time for the film to develop any sort of active stakes — a second student goes missing at the end — or for the true nature of his cult’s events to rear their heads.
Bill and Mealing play men burdened by their pasts, but their stories rarely affect their present, beyond the moments when they choose to point out their painful baggage aloud. That is, until the film finally allows the actors to play deeply into the emotions they’ve been going around – albeit for a brief moment – thanks to a bizarre turn late in the runtime. Its nature is best left untainted, but you probably won’t be able to guess it from the start anyway, mostly because it comes from left field, and makes the whole exercise more of a head-scratcher later, hinting at a better, more challenging movie we didn’t get to see. never.
The only thing really scary about The Pale Blue Eye is her zombie presence. It looks like a movie. It travels in a person’s body, with similar motions that you might be able to recognize from afar. But a closer look reveals something strange—something dead behind the eyes, struggling to maintain the semblance of a soul.
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