*inhale*. Can you smell that? First new release of the year. I’m excited.
Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Pale Blue Eye”.
New York, 1830. When a young student at the West Point military academy is found dead, weary detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called in to investigate and hopefully figure out what happened. And to aid him in his quest, he secretly acquires the assistance of an enigmatic young man (Harry Melling) who goes to the academy. I find myself a tad conflicted when it comes to the story here. On one hand, I genuinely enjoy the murder mystery going on here, it has this dark and very pulpy feel to it that I love, and it does take some pretty interesting turns that build in engaging ways. But there are also aspects to the story where it can feel slightly unfocused, as it tries to not only be a pulpy detective thriller, but also explore various other dramatic avenues. And while that could be fine, the script never makes them feel truly cohesive or like they weave in and out of each other as well as they could. This unfocused nature can especially be felt towards the middle, where it almost felt like it dragged. The movie on the whole is a slow burn, but the middle section does feel kinda bogged down. But in the moments where it zeroes in on the desolate, isolated, almost claustrophobic mystery, that is when it shines. Those bits are genuinely compelling.
The characters in this I find to actually be pretty interesting. most of them are generally presented with somewhat interesting personalities and it’s interesting to see how everyone interacts with each other or react to the vents unfolding. Christian Bale plays Augustus Landor, an aging and world-weary detective who’s gone through some rough times. He’s a compelling character that’s hard to describe since I don’t want to say too much. But he’s a solid protagonist and Bale is great as always. Next is Harry Melling as a young Edgar Allan Poe, a cadet at the academy and Bale’s secret assistant/confidant. He’s an enigmatic and talkative fella and I loved seeing both his personal arc and how his relationship to Bale’s Landor evolves. And Melling gives a fantastic performance in the role, this is so far a career best from him. Supporting cast is great too, containing people like Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson (a bit underused, IMO), Charlotte Gainsbourg (very underutilized), Lucy Boynton, and more, all giving damn solid performances.
The score for the movie was composed by Howard Shore and he killed it. Chilling strings, harsh brass, the man just brings an emotionally resonant score to proceedings that I could feel deep in my bones throughout the entire thing. It’s haunting and beautiful and I loved it.
Based on a novel by Louis Bayard, “The Pale Blue Eye” was recently released on Netflix, and was written and directed by Scott Cooper, and while his script could’ve had another look, I can’t deny what a good director he is. The pacing of scenes, the way he shows and/or hides things from the audience, the man brings his A-game in that regard. He also has a great way of making this movie feel cold, and I don’t strictly mean emotionally. Rarely do I see a movie set in a cold or snowy environment that genuinely makes me feel like I’m freezing, despite wearing knitwear in a relatively well heated room. And Cooper, together with cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi masterfully makes that come across through the way they shoot the movie. Just thinking about some of these scenes makes me feel like I need a blanket.
While it doesn’t quite reach its potential, I still found “The Pale Blue Eye” to be a fairly enjoyable little mystery-thriller. It has a mixed story, pretty good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Pale Blue Eye” is a 7.44/10. So while it is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth a watch.
My review of “The Pale Blue Eye” is now completed.
Linger ooooooon… your pale blue eyes…