THE PALE BLUE EYE
Starring: Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones, Harry Lawtey, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, and Robert Duvall
Director: Scott Cooper
So you know, 1999’s Sleepy Hollow is one of my favorite movies, and The Pale Blue Eye is very reminiscent of that Johnny Depp thriller since both feature a stacked cast, dulcet tones, and devilish mystery. However, where Sleepy Hollow is compelling, this is stale. As entertained as I was in ‘99, Eye is a tedious struggle. Outside of Poe’s (Harry Melling) inspiring game of wits with Landor (Christian Bale), each piece of dialogue feels like a boring, pompous, 10-minute monologue to no one in particular. Thank god for Bale’s and Melling’s aptitude though, or I would remember nothing from this film.
Though it boasts committed performances and a suitably gothic atmosphere, The Pale Blue Eye isn’t entirely sure what it wants to be. It starts and ends as a murder mystery akin to From Hell, but the middle sections boringly meander about the developing partnership between Detective Landor and Edgar Allan Poe (Christian Bale and Harry Melling, respectively). Then, there is a completely tacked on second ending. Since the story focuses more on the two investigators than the murder, the mystery has very little momentum to hold your interest, which, when combined with the low-lighting and foggy cinematography, make for a very sleepy watch.
As excellent as Christian Bale is and as much as Harry Melling thoroughly embodies Edgar Allen Poe, The Pale Blue Eye is slightly lesser poetry from director Scott Cooper. The mystery itself ultimately works, but it’s too thin for any true thematic weight to lift once the admittedly unexpected twist is revealed and recontextualizes what came before. Couple that with a narrative that meanders more than it moves, and there’s not much to write home about apart from some solid costume design and the engaging interplay between Bale and Melling. For January, it’s not bad…but it could have been better.
The Pale Blue Eye will definitely differ from viewer to viewer, and while I like an atmospheric whodunnit, gothic horror films aren’t really my vibe, especially slow burn ones like this that take their sweet time. Don’t get me wrong, it has great performances and it’s a well made film, but it’s not what I hoped for when it comes to an Edgar Allen Poe story. I’m going to be honest with you, it’s a bore. The runtime dragged me through the snow a bit, but for others, it may be an intriguing mystery worth investigating.
If I could summarize The Pale Blue Eye in one word, it would be “dull.” It is a nonsensical detective story that never feels mysterious or intriguing. Christian Bale does his best, and despite a good performance, he alone can not save the film. Harry Melling doesn’t shine as Edgar Allan Poe, but he tries, and the historically inaccurate Foghorn Leghorn impression does him no favors. It’s the final twists that really killed the film for me, though. Still, I must admit the costumes and cinematography are gorgeous, so at least it’s not a total loss, just a disappointment.